Port officials from Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates are set to visit Hong Kong and the mainland in the next 12 to 18 months to encourage investment in the Middle East's new free-trade zone at RAK Maritime City. Colin Crookshank, group general manager of RAK Ports, said the trip would be part of an Asian roadshow that would include meetings in South Korea and Malaysia, to promote the tariff-free area to potential investors. Ras Al Khaimah is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. There is already a strong Chinese link to the industrial zone after China Harbour Engineering, part of China Communications Construction, helped build the maritime centre, where more than US$140 million has been invested in infrastructure. Trade between China and the UAE topped US$25 billion last year. But Standard Chartered Bank forecast this could climb to US$100 billion by 2015, buoyed by stronger ties between the two countries following a visit by Premier Wen Jiabao to the Gulf state in January. During Wen's three-day trip, the two sides agreed to develop bilateral trade and economic links that included a long-term strategic relationship in the energy and agricultural sectors. Alan Pollard, RAK Ports business development manager, said investors in Ras Al Khaimah and its maritime centre could set up a manufacturing hub or operations base serving not just the Gulf region, but India's west coast and Africa's east coast. The free zone, which covers 800 hectares and has a dedicated harbour with five kilometres of quay wall with private jetties, has already attracted a raft of investors. These include Malaysian shipping company Shin Yang, German gypsum board manufacturer Knauf and Greek construction outfit Archirodon, which has consolidated its former Dubai and Abu Dhabi operations at the new maritime complex. Crookshank said heavy industry is being encouraged to move from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to free up land for development. Currently about 22 per cent of Ras Al Khaimah's GDP comes from manufacturing, including ceramics and quarrying. It aims to generate 20 per cent from tourism by 2021. Talks are under way with potential investors to develop an oil refinery and petrochemical projects, Crookshank added.