China flags up UAE as Silk Road mega-hub with $300m port deal

China’s Cosco has undertaken an investment program in CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal that could make it one of the biggest ports in the Arabian Gulf. Above, the Cosco Shipping Rose sails through the Panama Canal. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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China flags up UAE as Silk Road mega-hub with $300m port deal

  • Cosco has invested an initial $300 million in CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal
  • The expansion plan foresees a capacity of 9.1 million TEU by 2023

ABU DHABI: China, the world largest trading nation, has thrown its weight behind Abu Dhabi as the Middle East hub for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in an alliance with the UAE capital’s Khalifa Port.

Cosco, the Shanghai-based, state-owned group that ranks among the biggest shipping companies in the world, has invested an initial $300 million in the CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal, the first step in an investment program that could help make it one of the biggest ports in the Arabian Gulf over the next five years. Additional investment is pledged.

The expansion plan foresees a capacity of 9.1 million TEU (20-foot equivalent units, the standard measurement in the global container industry) by 2023. Jebel Ali, just 50 km away in Dubai, is currently by far the biggest port in the region with capacity of 22.1 million TEU.

China’s BRI is a state-sponsored strategy to enhance land and sea trading infrastructure in Asia, the Middle East and Africa via multibillion-dollar investments in trading hubs across the eastern hemisphere.

The Cosco-Abu Dhabi deal was unveiled at a ceremony at the port attended by prominent UAE and Chinese leaders.

Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, said: “China and the UAE share a strong and long-standing bond across a variety of ties, including economic, cultural, and trade and investment, and a common vision of a stable and prosperous future for our peoples and the world.”

He Jianzhong, China’s deputy minister of transport, said: “(The) terminal is the latest major achievement from China and the UAE’s joint efforts to implement ‘the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road’ in the ports and shipping industry.”

The deepwater, semi-automated container terminal includes the largest container freight station in the Middle East, covering 275,000 square meters.

“The state-of-the-art facility offers facilities for full and partial bonded container shipments, the full range of container packing services, short-term warehousing for deconsolidated cargo, as well as easy connectivity with container terminals in Khalifa Port,” a joint statement said.

The terminal has a design capacity of 2.5 million TEU and will begin with a handling capacity of 1.5 million TEU, with 1,200 meters of quayside. The water depth of the terminal is 16.5 meters, allowing it to accommodate mega-vessels typically carrying in excess of 20,000 TEU.

Ning Jizhe, deputy director of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, a state planning organization, said: “This inauguration ceremony is not only a milestone in the cooperation of China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative,’ but also a good start for China and the UAE’s pragmatic cooperation in other key areas.”

Trade ties have been growing between China and the UAE since a visit by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to Beijing three years ago. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UAE last summer.

The deal with Cosco is aimed at attracting foreign investment into the UAE via the Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), the huge logistics and manufacturing zone that borders the port.

China’s BRI is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in history, but has been criticized by some observers for leaving the partners of Chinese companies in debt.


Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

Updated 51 min 31 sec ago
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Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

  • Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors
  • After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers said they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies

NEW DELHI: Foreign companies in India have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory for the political stability it brings, but now they need to see him soften a protectionist stance adopted in the past year.
Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors, with US firms such as Amazon.com , Walmart and Mastercard committing billions of dollars in investments and ramping up hiring.
India is also the biggest market by users for firms such as Facebook Inc, and its subsidiary, WhatsApp.
But from around 2017, critics say, the Hindu nationalist leader took a harder, protectionist line on sectors such as e-commerce and technology, crafting some policies that appeared to aim at whipping up patriotic fervor ahead of elections.

Opinion

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“I hope he’s now back to wooing businesses,” said Prasanto Roy, a technology policy analyst based in New Delhi, who advises global tech firms.
“Global firms remain deeply concerned about the lack of policy stability or predictability, this has sent a worrying message to global investors.”
India stuck to its policies despite protests and aggressive lobbying by the United States government, US-India trade bodies and companies themselves.
Small hurdles
Modi was set to hold talks on Friday to form a new cabinet after election panel data showed his Bharatiya Janata Party had won 302 of the 542 seats at stake and was leading in one more, up from the 282 it won in 2014.
After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers told Reuters they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies.
Other investors hope the government will avoid sudden policy changes on investment and regulation that catch them off guard and prove very costly, urging instead industry-wide consultation that permits time to prepare.
Protectionism concerns “are small hurdles you have to go through,” however, said Prem Watsa, the chairman of Canadian diversified investment firm Fairfax Financial, which has investments of $5 billion in India.
“There will be more business-friendly policies and more private enterprise coming into India,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Tech, healthcare and beyond
Among the firms looking for more friendly steps are global payments companies that had benefited since 2016 from Modi’s push for electronic payments instead of cash.
Last year, however, firms such as Mastercard and Visa were asked to store more of their data in India, to allow “unfettered supervisory access,” a change that prompted WhatsApp to delay plans for a payments service.
Modi’s government has also drafted a law to clamp similar stringent data norms on the entire sector.
But abrupt changes to rules on foreign investment in e-commerce stoked alarm at firms such as Amazon, which saw India operations disrupted briefly in February, and Walmart, just months after it invested $16 billion in India’s Flipkart.
Policy changes also hurt foreign players in the $5-billion medical device industry, such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, following 2017 price caps on products such as heart stents and knee implants.
Modi’s government said the move aimed to help poor patients and curb profiteering, but the US government and lobby groups said it harmed innovation, profits and investment plans.
“If foreign companies see their future in this country on a long-term basis...they will have to look at the interests of the people,” Ashwani MaHajjan, an official of a nationalist group that pushed for some of the measures, told Reuters.
That view was echoed this week by two policymakers who said government policies will focus on strengthening India’s own companies, while providing foreign players with adequate opportunities for growth.
Such comments worry foreign executives who fear Modi is not about to change his protectionist stance in a hurry, with one offical of a US tech firm saying, “I’d rather be more worried than be optimistic.”