Netanyahu arrives in Beijing eyeing trade boost with economic giant China

Rencontre entre les dirigeants chinois et israéliens
AFP
Netanyahu brings with him a 90-member business delegation -- the largest ever -- as he seeks boost in trade

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in China on Sunday for a three-day visit aimed at boosting economic ties and marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet in Beijing with the country's three senior-most officials: President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang, and China's parliamentary head Zhang Dejiang.

The PM will on Monday lay a wreath at the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Beijing’s Tienanmen Square.

Netanyahu, who will be joined on his visit to China with wife Sara, last visited the country in May 2013.

Netanyahu is bringing with him to Beijing a 90-member business delegation -- the largest-ever -- as he seeks to boost trade ties with economic giant China, with which the Israeli leader has long sought a free-trade agreement.

"Israel is a country in high demand, as you can see from my past visits to Washington, Moscow and other countries and now China," Netanyahu said early Sunday morning, as he boarded a plane at Ben Gurion International Airport.

PM to talk trade as coalition crisis simmers at home

China is Israel's largest trade partner in Asia, and third largest in the world, with an estimated bilateral trade value exceeding $11 billion annually.

Netanyahu has sought to increase that value further, pushing for a hard-sought free-trade agreement for which a new round of negotiations will open in July.

The premier said he would discuss the prospects of the trade pact during his visit, and on Thursday touted scheduled meetings with China's business heavyweights.

“When we say the biggest corporations in China, we sometimes say the biggest corporations in the world, or which are quickly becoming the biggest in the world,” Netanyahu said, previewing the trip during a weekly cabinet meeting.

The Prime Minister's Office said Netanyahu will meet with business leaders who head companies “with turnovers of tens of billions of dollars."

Netanyahu's visit to China comes amid a coalition crisis at home over a public feud with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon over the future of a new national broadcasting service.

The Israeli PM, whose Likud party is part of a slim parliamentary majority, addressed the issue from the tarmac on Sunday morning raising the possibility of snap elections if the dispute over the Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA) -- which Netanyahu opposes -- is not resolved.

Kahlon, who chairs the Kulanu party, said Saturday that he has discussed the possibility of forming an alternative government with Leader of the Opposition Isaac Herzog, by proposing a vote of non-confidence against the current coalition, a move that would topple Netanyahu's ruling government.

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