China Israel flags.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The “diplomacy of technology” has allowed Israel to expand its relations in the world from only having ties with the US and Europe a few decades ago to robust relations now with numerous countries around the world, including China and India, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
Netanyahu’s comments came at the weekly cabinet meeting, where the ministers were briefed by senior Foreign Ministry officials on the status of Israel’s relations with both China and India to mark 25 years to the establishment of the ties with those countries, which took place in January 1992.
Netanyahu said Israel’s substantial trade with these two countries, and their investments in Israel, is based on leveraging Israel’s technological advantage. “This is what makes us a significant player in the international arena, despite our size,” he said.
Netanyahu received strong validation to his oft-repeated comments of Israel’s strong stature in the world from the respected, conservative bimonthly magazine The American Interest last week, when it ranked Israel as No. 8 in its list of 2017’s eight most powerful countries in the world.
The magazine, which focuses on foreign policy, military affairs and economics, placed Iran one notch higher on the list, at No. 7.
The US topped the list, followed by China and Japan in a tie for second, and Russia, Germany and India rounding out the group.
Netanyahu told the cabinet that Israel’s technological capabilities have given it leverage in its relations with China and India, and other powers in the world. The premier said it is important to understand that, with the exception of Israel’s alliance with the US, most alliances in the world are interest-based, and what Israel can offer other countries are the “conceptual abilities” of its population.
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“If we cannot continue to be innovative we will lose our advantage,” he said. “And in order to be innovative we must have a free market. If we close this market we will destroy and kill Israel’s goose that lays golden eggs.”
And these are not only economic “golden eggs,” he said, but strategic ones as well.
As such, the prime minister continued, it is essential to “continue our work against over-regulation and preserve the market and our hi-tech sector.”
Hagai Shagrir, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Northeast Asia Pacific department, told the ministers that trade between Israel and China currently stands at $11 billion, with $3b. of that being exports.
He said China is very keen on doing business with Israel, and that one-third of investment in Israel’s hi-tech industry comes from China and Hong Kong. Netanyahu said during the discussion that Israel’s $3b. in exports to China is low, considering the size of that country’s market. Making greater headway into the Chinese market is a strategic interest for Israel’s economy, he asserted.
The two countries are currently negotiating a free trade agreement, something that is expected to significantly increase trade.
When Israel and China established ties 25 years ago, annual trade between them was $50 million.
Similarly, when Israel and India established ties, annual trade was some $200m., as opposed to $4b. today. Mark Sofer, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Asia and the Pacific, said it is vital for Israel to take advantage of the “window of opportunity” that exists today both with India and China.
“These are very important countries, and their desire to cooperate with Israel is great,” he said.
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