Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Monday (March 20) at the start of his three-day visit to Beijing.
China’s economy may be 35 times larger than Israel’s, but Netanyahu is hoping to use that to advantage during his visit as he looks to reorient Israel’s economy towards Asia over Europe and the United States.
Netanyahu wants to enlarge Israel’s high-tech presence in China while encouraging further Chinese investment in Israel, where infrastructure and construction projects are growing apace.
More than 100 technology executives have joined Netanyahu on the visit, with meetings planned with Chinese business leaders. Bilateral trade has been hovering at around $8 billion for the last few years, but over the past decade, Israel’s exports to China have tripled to $3.3 billion in 2016, with technology—from cybersecurity to agri-tech—leading the way. Half the investments in Israeli funds in 2015 involved at least one Chinese investor, and 40 percent of funds raised by Israeli venture capital firms came from Chinese backers, according to the Economy Ministry.
While the European Union remains Israel’s largest trading partner, Asia is steadily closing the gap and politically it tends to put far fewer demands on Israel than the EU does.
Chinese firms are driving major infrastructure projects in Israel, including Tel Aviv’s metro system and new Mediterranean ports in Haifa and Ashdod. A deal for 6,000 Chinese construction workers to come to Israel was signed earlier this year, with the possibility of extending it to 20,000.