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Saudi-US Ties: A Rich History and Promising Vision | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Saudi King Salman holds bilateral talks with US President Donald Trump and the accompanying delegation in Riyadh on May 20. (SPA)

The political and economic history of Saudi Arabia and its ally the United States will note a long record of achievements that are based on constant principles and the depth of the joint interests between them.

Despite over eight decades of Saudi-US ties, their present reality leaves no room for doubt over the solidity of this relationship and the heavy weight they have on the global political and economic scenes.

Away from the lengthy recounting of the beginnings of this relationship, it is enough to point out to two major developments.

The first was the historic first Saudi-US summit that brought together founder King Abdulaziz bin Al Rahman Al Saud and US President Franklin Roosevelt in 1945.

The second is US President Donald Trump’s extraordinary trip to Saudi Arabia, the first of its kind since his election as president.

Trump broke protocol when he first met with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House and a second time when he chose Saudi Arabia as the first destination of his first international tour. He opted for the Kingdom instead of one of Washington’s European allies.

On the economic level, which will be the main focus of this article, everyone knows that Saudi Arabia enjoys tight and historic ties with the United States. They date back to 1931 when Standard Oil of California was granted rights to dig for oil in the Kingdom. This was followed by the first commercial oil shipment, extracted from al-Kheir well, to the world. This has served the joint interests of both countries.

Moreover, several American companies played a major role in shaping and establishing Saudi Aramco, which is considered one of the greatest oil companies in the world.

Since then, economic ties have advanced at a rapid pace as demonstrated by the size of the trade balance of each country.

During my time as head of the Saudi side of the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council, which aims to bolster ties between private sector institutions in Saudi Arabia and the US and backing trade and investment relations between them, I sensed the strength of the economic ties between the two countries.

During my time of CEO of SABIC, which is one of the leading producers of chemicals worldwide, I sensed the benefits from the American market, both economically and technically. This is demonstrated by the size of SABIC’s investments in the US.

Today and since Saudi Arabia is seeking to achieve the goals of Vision 20130, US ties have witnessed a new leap that has been sensed by all. This was demonstrated through the several meetings that were held between them, starting those held by Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a number of US economic officials.

Opportunities for economic Saudi-US cooperation are much greater than they were in the past given the large scope of Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia has had the lion’s share of investment opportunities with the US, compared to its Gulf neighbors, due to its advanced technical and technological capabilities that helped improve the local production.

Latest economic reports expected investment agreements between Saudi Arabia and the US to be worth around $200 billion.

In other fields, the US played an effective role in pushing development forward in Saudi Arabia through the training of education cadres whereby the US hosted the first student mission from the Kingdom in 1947. The country kept on receiving more students, some of whom returned home where they assumed leading positions in the Kingdom.

This led to the establishment of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Overseas Scholarship Program, in a reflection of our government’s desire to meet the demands of the job market and to achieve national development. The first foreign mission was comprised of 5,000 students and this figure has reached 120,000.

Bilateral ties have not been limited to politics, economy and education, but they have expanded to other fields that I have not mentioned, such as military industry, which I hope will have a positive impact in achieving the goals of the new vision in nationalizing local military industries. The goal is to nationalize more than 50 percent military spending by Vision 2030. This demands direct investments and strategic partnerships with pioneering firms. This can be achieved through benefitting from the expertise of military industry companies in the US and other advanced countries.

We are now on the doorstep of a new economic revival that is aimed at achieving an important transformation in all fields in Saudi Arabia. Given the great expectations of our government, all indications point to a stronger future and firmer Saudi-US ties, especially on the economic and technical levels.