BEIJING — China appears willing to approve Israel’s request to be exempt from a new Chinese policy barring investments in foreign countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
In a bid to boost its domestic economy, Beijing in January decided to restrict Chinese capital spent abroad, causing much anguish among businessman worldwide.
But on Tuesday, Netanyahu asked Chinese President Xi Jingping to make an exception for Israel, he told reporters, hours after their meeting at Diaoyutai State Guest House.
“I asked for an exemption on the general restrictions. I said that Israel’s a special case. It’s a technology powerhouse that has no market,” Netanyahu said. “It has significance for technology but it doesn’t have any significance in terms of volume on markets or currencies, or anything. Israel is very big in technology but small in market weight.”
Netanyahu told Xi that China is interested in Israeli technology while Israel is interested in Chinese capital. But Israel’s much-lauded innovation needs more cash, and therefore Beijing should consider not applying its new restrictions on Israeli companies.
“He said he was willing to do it,” Netanyahu said. However, the two leaders did not discuss details of the arrangements.
Netanyahu told Xi that the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang had asked him on Wednesday to reduce regulatory burdens so that Israeli technology would reach the Chinese market more easily.
If you want our products, let us have your capital, Netanyahu argued during his Tuesday meeting with the Chinese president. “It’s called reciprocity,” Netanyahu said.
Currently, one-third of foreign investment in Israel comes from China, according to Netanyahu.
“Israel’s start-up/high-tech community is always thirsty for new capital,” said Eli Groner, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office and the co-head of the Israel-China economic task force.
“The recent Chinese decision caused concern within our hi-tech community that the Chinese capital that has been flowing into Israel over the last few years would come to sudden stop. We are encouraged that the prime minister’s involvement will help unlock this potentially significant flow of capital,” he told The Times of Israel.
Earlier on Tuesday, Xi announced the establishment of a “Comprehensive Innovation Partnership” with Israel, which Netanyahu hailed as “a tremendously important decision.”
“We have always believed… that Israel can be a partner, a junior partner, but a perfect partner for China in the development of a variety of technologies that change the way we live, how long we live, how healthy we live, the water we drink, the food we eat, the milk that we drink – in every area,” he told Xi at the beginning of their meeting.
Later, the prime minister told Israeli reporters that Xi promised to issue a policy directive to all relevant authorities asking them to advance the technological cooperation with Israel.
Last year, China formed an “Innovative Strategic Partnership” with Switzerland, but no other country in the world has the status of a “Comprehensive Innovation Partnership” with the Asian giant, Netanyahu said.