PM’s talks in China focus on business ties

Netanyahu and his Chinese counterpart devote majority of meeting to Sino- Israeli relations; talks on Middle East issues to entail.

Netanyahu and Chinese PM Li Keqiang 370  (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Netanyahu and Chinese PM Li Keqiang 370
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
BEIJING – Two days after China announced a four-point plan for Middle East peace, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, spent less than five minutes of their 90-minute meeting on Wednesday talking about it, officials in Netanyahu’s entourage said.
Rather, the bulk of their conversation dealt with Israeli-Chinese bilateral cooperation, with a section also devoted to discussing the Iranian nuclear program.
More intensive discussions about the Palestinians, as well as regional issues like Iran and Syria, are expected at Netanyahu’s meeting on Thursday with Chinese President Li Jinping. Netanyahu and Li also arrived at an agreement to increase the financial protocol between the two countries, which helps underwrite long-term trade deals, to $400m.
“The meeting with the Chinese prime minister was excellent,” Netanyahu said. “I suggested, and he agreed, to the establishment of two teams – an Israeli one and a Chinese one – to come up with a strategic plan for deep cooperation between Israeli companies, experts and technology, and the Chinese government and Chinese companies.”
Netanyahu’s chief economic adviser Eugene Kandel will head up Israel’s team, and is expected, within a few months, to recommend concrete ways to cooperate in the sphere of water reclamation, agriculture and public health.
Netanyahu, who has focused primarily on business issues since arriving in China on Monday, said this could serve as an “economic springboard” for future generations.
“This was the main objective of my visit, and I am happy it was achieved,” he told journalists after the meeting. “We now have to ensure that it is implemented.”
Netanyahu said that the Chinese government’s willingness to cut through bureaucracy and make the Chinese market accessible to Israeli businesses is “very, very important for Israel’s economy and future.”
The Chinese government controls the country’s massive economy, and Netanyahu is convinced that a positive wink from the government will have a tremendous impact on the ability of Israeli firms to penetrate the huge Chinese market.
Li welcomed Netanyahu to an overcast, sunless Beijing on Wednesday with a colorful red carpet welcome ceremony in the shadow of the city’s massive Great Hall of the People.
The two leaders stood at rapt attention as cannon fire punctuated an army marching band’s rendition of “Hatikva” and the Chinese national anthem, the sound of the blasts echoing off the signature Beijing buildings that surround Tiananmen Square.
Li and Netanyahu met in an ornate room in the Great Hall of the People for about 90 minutes, twice the allotted time, and then Li hosted Netanyahu and his delegation at a dinner.
Netanyahu and Li – who was appointed premier in March and is primarily responsible for China’s economic issues – talked throughout the welcome ceremony, and also during a ceremony where five Sino- Israeli economic and technological agreements were signed.
Although the Palestinian issue, according to Israeli officials, was only brought up at the very end of the meeting by Li, he made a point during his opening remarks to highlight it, saying he wanted to talk not only about bilateral issues, but also “regional issues such as the question of Palestine and the Middle East peace process.”
Netanyahu, during his opening remarks, repeated what he has been saying for the last two days, that Israel “admires China” and feels “a connection” to the Chinese civilization and people. He added that both are ancient peoples with a “glorious past, a difficult in between period, and soaring into the future.”
According to Netanyahu, Israel could be the “perfect junior partner for China in its pursuit of economic excellence and competitive advantage, by offering our technical capabilities.”