Binyamin and Sarah Netanyahu at Great Wall of China
Binyamin and Sarah Netanyahu at Great Wall of China Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash 90

Israel has been rapidly expanding ties with leading Asian nations even as threats of boycotts continue to emanate from Europe, and a major breakthrough regarding Israel's presence in Asia appears to be imminent as the state moves towards a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.

Chinese media began discussing the prospect of a FTA with Israel last December, and on Monday Economics Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) met in Jerusalem with Chinese Ambassador to Israel Zhan Yongxin for the first time to discuss establishing a free trade zone.

In the meeting Deri expressed Israel's strong desire to establish a free trade zone with the superpower China, holder of the world's second largest GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

For his part Zhan said China is committed to holding negotiations on such an agreement, after Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in March announced his intention to do so in a report to the National People's Congress.

The two sides agreed that a free trade zone agreement would bring bilateral ties to a whole new level; currently Chinese investments in Israel stand at $6 billion, with the Israeli hi-tech industry being a major draw in investment.

"The Israeli Ministry of Economy concentrates efforts to promote and expand the trade ties between the two countries and to this end operates various tools to support Israeli companies doing business in China, such as dedicated funds for projects in the People's Republic of China, supporting incoming and outgoing delegations and of course, our trade attachés posted across China," said Deri.

Israel has expressed a noted shift in focus towards the Far East that has blossomed since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited China in May 2013. Various agreements and cooperation deals have been reached with China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea as well as India.

The Israeli focus on China comes as the economic superpower continues to show an ever more assertive position in its region, and as US President Barack Obama's administration has been seen as promoting a largely hands-off foreign policy.

Israel's Economy Ministry Foreign Trade Administration is expected to take the lead in talks for a free trade zone agreement with China. It is currently preparing for the negotiations and is consulting with trade and industry officials to summarize Israel's specific interests in the burgeoning trade relations with China.

The Foreign Trade Administration currently runs five trade attachés across China, consisting of two in Beijing, one in Guangzhou, one in Shanghai and one in Hong Kong.

Indicating the importance Israel attaches to its ties with China, the number of attachés it holds in China is the exact same as it has in the United States.