By Andy Sambidge
Emirates NBD, Abu Dhabi's NBAD open representative offices in Beijing, Shanghai
Two of the UAE's largest banks are leading an expansion drive into China as trade between the two countries continues its rapid growth.
The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and Emirates NBD have both launched their first representative offices in China.
NBAD, which has the largest international presence among all UAE banks, with more than 50 overseas business units located in 14 countries, said it has set up operations in Shanghai.
Emirates NBD said it has set up a Beijing office to underline its "commitment to businesses in China and the GCC countries that seek to expand their footprint across all markets where Emirates NBD has operations".
The moves come as UAE is now China's second largest Middle East trading partner with many Chinese companies looking towards the Middle East, especially in infrastructure, transportation, building and construction related industries.
Michael Tomalin, Group chief executive of NBAD, said: "Asian markets, especially China, have a vital strategic importance to our global operations.
"After our entrance to the Far East in 2009 with the launch of our operations in Hong Kong, the opening of the Shanghai Representative Office demonstrates our full confidence in the Asia market."
He said the new office will serve as a gateway to the UAE, the Middle East and North Africa regions for NBAD's clients in China.
The bank's presence in Shanghai will operate as a representative office for two years, according to China Banking Regulatory Commission directives.
Emirates NBD's Beijing office was officially inaugurated this week by Vice Chairman Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, in the presence of senior bank management.
The bank said the opening is part of its international expansion strategy, and is the bank's first office in China.
Al Qassim said: "Over the last decade, China has emerged as one of the Gulf's most important trade partners, both as a leading energy importer and as the world's largest exporter.
"We believe this is the opportune time to expand our banking operations into China, and create a liaison point to support businesses operating in these two key markets."
Recent studies estimate that trade between the UAE and China has increased 35 percent annually during the last decade.
Emirates NBD CEO Rick Pudner added: "Growing trade between the GCC states and China has underlined the need for efficient and speedy cross-border financial services, and we are committed to developing and supporting businesses both in China and our home region by leveraging our links in all the markets in which we operate."