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Israel and China Ink Accord Lowering Barriers to Trade

August 20, 1992
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Israel and the People’s Republic of China initialed a trade agreement Wednesday that lowers administrative barriers to mutual commerce and opens up vast new vistas to Israeli exporters.

The speed with which the pact was drafted — in only a month — was an indication of China’s interest in developing commercial relations between the two countries, said David Koren, director general of the Israeli Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The announcement followed reports that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was reconsidering plans to sell 40 Kfir jet planes to Taiwan because of objections by the Chinese People’s Republic, which feared the deal would strengthen its traditional enemy.

Koren, who inaugurated the trade talks during an official visit to Beijing last month, said the Chinese are interested in Israeli technology, industry and agriculture.

Even before the establishment of diplomatic ties in January, Israel and China were trading partners. Israel registered $40 million in exports to China last year, including agricultural and industrial goods and equipment, as well as arms.

It imported only $4 million in Chinese goods, mainly shoes, textiles, pencils and other light industrial goods.

The accord was initialed two weeks before El Al’s scheduled launching of direct flights from Tel Aviv to Beijing.

On Sept. 3,El Al Flight 095 will extend the flight map of Israel’s national airline eastward in a non-stop, 101/2-hour flight to the Chinese capital, passing over Russia and the now-independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Over 2,000 passengers have already booked flights, and the airline is now scheduling them aboard Boeing jumbo jets rather than the smaller 467s originally planned.

The airline expects to fly 7,000 passengers to Beijing in the first year of operations — the vast majority of them Israelis and Westerners visiting China, with very few Chinese taking advantage of the flights initially.

The value of the new route reaches far beyond its commercial importance, said Yeshayahu Hassid, director of El Al Israel.

“For the first time, our flight map extends eastward. Our air agreements with many of the East Asian airlines serving Beijing eastward mean that El Al passengers can go on to book flights from China to virtually any other destination in the Far East.”

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