Israel is ‘perfect junior partner’

Premier Li Keqiang chats with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. — Reuters

Premier Li Keqiang chats with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. — Reuters

ISRAEL wants to boost cooperation with China in technology, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Chinese Premier Li Keqiang yesterday, as he led a business delegation to Beijing to promote commercial ties.

During his meeting with Li, Netanyahu said Israel and China could explore “many ways of technological cooperation.”

Li praised Israel’s advances, saying it was a world leader in some technologies.

“The Chinese people and the Jewish people are both great peoples of the world,” Li said.

Earlier, Netanyahu told a meeting of more than 600 Israeli and Chinese businesspeople that Israel is well-positioned to help China upgrade its products, services and utilities with better technology.

“I think that there is an extraordinary capacity for China to assume its rightful place, as it’s doing, on the world stage,” Netanyahu said.

“We are your perfect junior partner for that effort,” he said, adding that the governments would sign a series of agreements. “I believe this is a marriage made in heaven.”

Netanyahu also met with the heads of large Chinese corporations including the conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, computer maker Lenovo Group and Internet search company Baidu Inc.

“I told them that in today’s world there are several concentrations of technology, not many; the US, Israel, and Israel is open for business with China,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying in a government statement.

During his visit, Netanyahu is to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will host an official banquet. Netanyahu said the countries would discuss a free trade agreement. He also told Li he looked forward to discussing the region’s security situation with China.

“There is a great deal of convulsion in the world, including in our part of the world and I would like to have the opportunity to exchange views with you and see how we can cooperate together” for stability and peace, he said.

China’s economy may be 35 times larger than Israel’s, but Netanyahu is hoping to use that to advantage during his three-day visit to the Chinese capital as he looks to reorient Israel’s economy toward Asia over Europe and the United States.

A week after US chip giant Intel agreed to buy Israeli technology firm Mobileye for US$15.3 billion, Netanyahu wants to enlarge Israel’s high-tech presence in China while encouraging further Chinese investment in Israel, where infrastructure and construction projects are growing apace.

More than 100 executives are with Netanyahu on the visit.

Bilateral trade has been hovering at around US$8 billion for the past few years, but over the past decade, Israel’s exports to China tripled to US$3.3 billion in 2016, with technology — from cyber security to agri-tech — leading the way.

Half the investments in Israeli funds in 2015 involved at least one Chinese investor, and 40 percent of funds raised by Israeli venture capital firms came from Chinese backers, according to its Economy Ministry.

“Israel is pivoting toward Asia in a very clear and purposeful way,” Netanyahu said last month in Singapore, which he visited along with Australia. Indian President Narenda Modi will visit Israel in the summer, underpinning the Asia trend.

While the European Union remains Israel’s largest trading partner, Asia is steadily closing the gap.

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