Israel and China are closer than ever to signing a free trade agreement, after a meeting between Economics Minister Naftali Bennett and top Chinese officials. During the meeting, Bennett discussed with the Chinese officials several aspects of such an agreement, and in a statement said that progress towards a deal had been made.
Prior to the meeting, the two sides prepared their positions in private talks, with the Israeli side hammering out conditions under which entering a free trade agreement would be worthwhile for Israel. China is also doing its due diligence on the deal, and both countries will poll economists, business people, and government officials on how they see the deal affecting the respective economies. The polling process will continue for a year, at which point the two sides will meet again.
Currently, trade between Israel and China is worth $8 billion, making China Israel's largest Asian trading partner. In second place is India, with which Israel is also negotiating a free trade agreement, which is expected to be signed by the end of 2013. Speaking after the meeting in Beijing, Bennett said that he expected a FTA between Israel and China to “substantially increase trade between our two countries.”
In addition, Bennett suggested to his Chinese hosts that, besides working on a FTA, the two countries should also arrange a “free idea agreement” to exchange ideas about technology. Bennett was accompanied on his trip by several entrepreneurs and agricultural experts, who are demonstrating Israeli advances in agricultural and water technology, as well as in hi-tech areas.
“An agreement for an exchange of ideas would be historic, as there are not two countries that have such an agreement right now,” Bennett said.