Bahrain can be like the Hong Kong of the Middle East, commerce minister says


Bahrain is well positioned to benefit from an expected trade boost brought about by the liberalization and economic growth of Saudi Arabia, the country’s minister for industry, commerce and tourism told CNBC Thursday.

“The opening up and liberalization of Saudi Arabia is something good for the whole region not just Bahrain. Saudi is the largest market, it’s the largest population, it has the largest disposable income in the region, and by having a more liberal and accessible Saudi Arabia we all stand to benefit from that,” Zayed Al Zayani told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.

“If you look at China opening up it didn’t hurt Hong Kong, Hong Kong flourished because of that and China flourished as well,” he said.

Asked whether it was Bahrain’s goal to be like the Hong Kong of the Middle East, Al Zayani said: “I think so, I think this is a great opportunity for us to be like that.”

The liberalization and economic strategy of Saudi Arabia with its Vision 2030, taking place under the aegis of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was a “win-win” situation for Bahrain, Al Zayani said, with the small kingdom well positioned to export throughout the region and beyond.

“We already have a large industrial base in Bahrain that’s predominantly orientated to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region. All those that started as a regional manufacturing base are now expanding even further to North Africa, Southeast Asia, East Africa and exporting out of Bahrain. It’s great for us as it creates employment, it creates investment, it creates export value and it links us to our neighboring countries.”

Bahrain is only a short journey away from most of the major capitals in the Gulf, Al Zayani noted. “By air and by road we’re only four hours away from Riyadh, four hours away from Kuwait and we have an excellent logistics network.”

Speaking to CNBC from Bahrain’s Gateway Gulf Investment Forum in Manama on Thursday, the minister said the inaugural event had been a success.

“We set out to launch Bahrain as an investment hub, and we’ve had an excellent presence from our neighboring countries, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait specifically, and huge interest from the rest of the world. There’s been a lot of dialogue and a lot opportunity created,” he said.



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