Israel-China ties bloom with free trade talks imminent

Israel-China ties bloom with free trade talks imminent

Talks on eliminating commercial barriers to start soon, as hundreds of Israeli startups meet with Chinese entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv

Catalyst CEL Fund's Yair Shamir presents a GoforIsrael award to Fosun Group's Joe Yizhou He  (Courtesy)
Catalyst CEL Fund's Yair Shamir presents a GoforIsrael award to Fosun Group's Joe Yizhou He (Courtesy)

Israel and China relations are reaching new heights as investors and entrepreneurs throng conferences in China and Tel Aviv and the two countries gear up for talks on establishing a free trade zone.

In Tel Aviv, as part of the second annual China-Israel Investment Conference, around 500 Israeli startups met with 1,000 Chinese investors and strategic players, the organizers said. The conference was part of the DLD Innovation week that took place this week in Israel.

The conference was an initiative of the Infinity Investment Group with the assistance of the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, after a similar conference was organized in Beijing in January.

Amit Lang, the ministry’s director-general, who was a keynote speaker at the conference, said that in the coming days negotiations would begin on establishing a free trade zone between the two countries. Such an agreement, once completed, will remove trade obstacles and enable investment opportunities.

Israel sees China as a strategic partner and a key country for economic cooperation, Lang said, allocating to the East Asian giant six Israeli trade missions — more than to any other country — in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and starting next week, Chengdu.

“Israel is a powerhouse of innovation and hosts more than 270 international companies, including some Chinese corporations which appreciate the opportunities in Israel,” said Lang. “We would be happy to see even more Chinese companies and investors become active in Israel. We invite you to familiarize yourselves with our innovation and originality, attractive incentives, tailored support and our ability to do business.”

As the world’s second-largest economy shifts its identity from a manufacturing and labor-intensive economy to a high-end innovative force, Asian giants including Alibaba Group, Hutchison Water Ltd., and Huawei have set up R&D centers, invested in funds and snapped up Israeli startups and companies.

Chinese conglomerates like the Kuang-Chi Group have set up funds and are investing in Israeli companies, while earlier this week Chinese IT corporation Neusoft said it would set up a $250 million fund to invest in Israeli medical technologies over the next three years, together with the Israeli-Chinese private equity fund Infinity Group.

In June China’s President Xi Jinping called for his country to establish itself as one of the most innovative countries in the world by 2020. And as long as China lacks home-grown technology, the nation is out on a shopping spree.

Almost in parallel to the conference in Tel Aviv, investors, entrepreneurs and government officials attended the GoforIsrael conferences held in Shanghai and Wuhan.

‫ At the events, Chinese investors, including executives from Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Lenovo, and funds met with established Israeli companies and startups including Zerto, XJet, Tufin, ReWalk, Kaminario and Mobileye, said the conference organizers, Catalyst Fund and Cukierman & Co. Investment House. More than 2,800 people attended the two events, they said.

“The conference exceeded our expectations,” said Yair Shamir, managing partner of the Catalyst CEL Fund. “There were hundreds of face-to-face meetings between Israeli companies and potential investors, and we hope to see these relations continue and yield results. There were companies who had six to eight follow-up meetings in one day, which significantly shortens the process and helps to advance in a shorter timeframe.”

The GoforIsrael prize awarded for excellence in investment was given to China’s Fosun Group. The award was given to Dr. Joe Yizhou He, Israeli operations manager of Fosun Capital and CEO and chairman of Fosun Yi Cosmetic.

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