Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Heavy Traffic on New Silk Road ; Asia and the Mideast Revive Centuries-Old Links with a Boom in Trade

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Heavy Traffic on New Silk Road ; Asia and the Mideast Revive Centuries-Old Links with a Boom in Trade

Article excerpt

A modern Silk Road between Asia and the Middle East

E.U. partners grumble as their idle professionals find offers hard to resist

A growing number of entrepreneurs has carved out roles as intermediaries between Asia and the Gulf, for real estate projects, joint ventures, and investment deals.

When Christy Lee, a South Korean investment banker, was dispatched to the Gulf four years ago to drum up business, her friends in Seoul had a hard time taking the assignment seriously. "They would say, Did you enjoy riding the camels?" she recalled.

Then the Gulf states' oil earnings led to orders worth tens of billions of dollars for South Korean companies: The most noteworthy so far has been the deal for South Korea Electric Power Corp. to build four nuclear plants in Abu Dhabi, worth as much as $30 billion.

Now, when Ms. Lee talks about the Gulf, people listen. She has started her own firm, Daewon Advisory Services, with offices in Seoul and Abu Dhabi. In the past year she has brought 120 executives and leaders from the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries to South Korea, eager to figure out how it made its big economic strides. She expects these visits to bring in more deals.

Ms. Lee is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs and other people who have carved out roles as intermediaries between Asia and the Gulf, reviving in modern form -- real estate projects, joint ventures, and investment deals -- the centuries-old link between the Middle East and Asia known as the Silk Road.

Traders centuries ago brought silks and other goods from China by overland caravan trails and sea passages plied by sailing dhows -- ancestors of the chunky boats that still berth, several abreast, along the banks of the Dubai Creek while scruffy crews load cargoes ranging from machinery to soft drinks for Iran and India.

In more recent times, as the West waxed in wealth and China waned, the old routes waned with it. But now the pendulum is swinging back and the Middle East -- especially the Gulf region -- is again growing much closer to Asia. Trade between Asia and the Middle East rose 700 percent in the decade ending in 2010, and more than half of the region's trade is now with Asia, said Farouk Soussa, chief Middle East economist at Citi in Dubai.

Booming trade is leading to growing investment as well as political and cultural ties. Not long ago it would have been a total shock for Abu Dhabi to order nuclear reactors from South Korea. American or French providers would have been the likely choice.

"Asia is quite clearly where the Gulf is making a strategic gamble," said Raad Alkadiri, a partner at PFC Energy, a consulting firm in Washington. "The Gulf states are hoping to tie their economies more closely with Asia's. With the U.S. strategic focus shifting, they may eventually look to the giants of Asia to fill some of the security vacuum in the Gulf. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.