The prime minister’s leading economic adviser will fly to China on Wednesday in a bid to increase trade and investment between the two countries and promote joint R&D projects.
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Prof. Eugene Kandel, the head of the National Economic Council, will meet with Zhang Xiaoqiang, the vice director of China’s National Development and Reform Commission.
Kandel will also meet with Shanghai government and business officials, as well as the governor of Guangzhou Province, the Prime Minister's Office said Monday.
On top of his role as economic adviser, Kandel heads an interministerial committee to promote economic cooperation with the Chinese.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is keen to deepen economic ties with China and tap a market that could buoy Israeli economic growth and reduce the country’s dependence on the U.S. and Western European markets.
Also Monday, the two countries announced an agreement that envisages 14 weekly passenger flights between Israel and China, as well as seven weekly cargo flights.
According to the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority, Giora Romm, the Tel Aviv-Beijing route carries 50,000 passengers every year. Another 30,000 travel between Israel and China via other cities. At present, El Al operates just three weekly flights on the Tel Aviv-Beijing route. China's national carrier Air China does not fly to Israel.
During a meeting Sunday, the Chinese said there were no flights to Israel because China’s aviation industry was growing faster than its ability to find and train new staff. They said China’s aviation fleet adds around 350 planes every year.
The new agreement greatly expands the potential for code-sharing arrangements between Israeli and Chinese airlines, including access to seven destinations in China through domestic Chinese flights. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the agreement also increased Israel’s potential as a tourist destination for the massive Chinese market.
“I believe that this agreement is likely to bring to Israel hundreds of thousands and even millions of Chinese who admire the history of the Jewish people and the Jewish sites that draw in visitors from around the world,” he said.
In 2012, nearly 19,800 Chinese tourists visited Israel, a 13% increase from 2011 and 49% from 2010.