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April 23, 2017

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Saudi Arabia looks beyond oil for future opportunities

Agreements signed for projects between Gulf country and China

China and Saudi Arabia will continue to diversify economic cooperation and develop stronger trade ties in 2017, as their products are complementary and they have reached a consensus on both the "Saudi Vision 2030" strategy and the Belt and Road Initiative, economists said on Sunday.

Eager to diversify its heavily oil-dependent economy, Saudi Arabia announced the "Saudi Vision 2030" growth strategy in 2016, which includes privatizing some State-owned companies and finding more new market growth points from non-oil related sectors.

Long Guoqiang, vice-president of the Development Research Center of the State Council, said on the sideline of the China Development Forum that the Belt and Road Initiative is expected to help Saudi Arabia realize its growth plan, as it can efficiently boost regional infrastructure connectivity, people-to-people exchanges, investment and trade activities on an effective multilateral cooperative platform.

The infrastructure, trade and services network proposed by the Chinese government in 2013 envisions a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, covering about 4.4 billion people in more than 60 countries and regions in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Sang Baichuan, director of the Institute of International Business at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said that even though oil trade lies at the heart of bilateral business ties, Saudi Arabia's surging demand for infrastructure improvements-such as next-generation oil refineries, roads, airports and oil tanker and container ports-will provide opportunities for Chinese project contractors and manufacturers.

Their comments came after China and Saudi Arabia signed 14 agreements and memorandums of understanding to deepen cooperation in such areas as energy, investment, finance, culture and aerospace last week.

Among these big-ticket cooperative documents, one is an MOU on production capacity and investment cooperation that has 35 big projects involving $65 billion.

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