American firms are contributing to the $200 billion infrastructure projects that the Saudi government has committed over the past two years, said US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on Tuesday.
“Even more firms want to serve as partners in the next five years as Saudi Arabia spends $500 billion more,” she told the US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum in Los Angeles.
Pritzker emphasized her country’s desire to invest in the Kingdom’s vital sectors. “From rail transportation to water utilities to solar power US companies can partner to help build strong and vibrant communities in Saudi Arabia.”
In her keynote speech at the third US-Saudi forum, the secretary of commerce said more US businesses of all sizes are recognizing that Saudi Arabia is a place where they can find partners and do business.
“In fact, Saudi Arabia’s ranking on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index has risen to and remained in the top 25 in recent years,” she pointed out.
She added: “As the growth of this forum reflects, our commercial relationship is blossoming — both in trade and investment.” Last year, trade in both directions hit all-time record highs. It surpassed pre-recession levels for the first time. We are now more than triple our bilateral trade of just a decade ago, she added.
If current trends continue, Pritzker said, nearly $20 billion in US merchandise would go to Saudi Arabia this year including cars, planes, machinery, medical instruments, and more.
“I know that many of the people in this room are helping to bring innovative US products to business partners and consumers in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
“I’m pleased that our Advocacy Center is helping US businesses compete for dozens of Saudi projects valued at billions of dollars – particularly in areas like defense, energy, and information technology,” she said while stressing the need to achieve a greater balance in commercial relationship.
Pritzker highlighted future investment prospects in Saudi Arabia. “In the coming years, we will have many opportunities. The Saudi population is growing quickly, with 28 percent of its population age 14 or younger. The Saudi economy is diversifying into fields like education, technology, and financial services,” she said.
The forum saw the signing of three agreements in the presence of Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah for expanding cooperation. The first agreement was between the Saudi Ministry of Health and Creative Associates International, the second between the Ministry and Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and the third between Tamimi Group and Pentair Middle East.
Al-Rabiah noted the historic Saudi-American ties. “The Saudi-US relationship is in its eighth decade. It has weathered many storms. It has been tried, it has been tested, and it has always come out stronger after each experience.”
He noted the continued strength of trade between Saudi Arabia and US. “Our trade relationship has grown considerably over the past few years,” he said. “While oil remains an important part, the relationship has developed far beyond.”
He cited the many sectors where business cooperation is flourishing and partnerships currently in the making. Al-Rabiah closed his speech by saying, “I believe that the relationship today is very strong. I hope that the relationship will continue to grow stronger for the benefit and worth of our countries.”
The forum quickly jumped from the background and context of the Saudi-US commercial relationship to the details associated with business opportunities in a broad spectrum of sectors. The first plenary session provided a distinguished panel to address technological innovation in the realm of education. This was followed by eight concurrent panels that focused on education, information technology, healthcare, water, construction, energy, finance, chemicals, transportation, agriculture, industrial infrastructure and power generation.