London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Negotiators representing Saudi Arabia and the USA have prepared recommendations to protect and encourage investments between the two countries. The teams will present their proposals to the joint ministerial committee that will be headed by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al Faisal and American foreign secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.
The Saudi Deputy Minister for Economic and Cultural Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Yousef Bin Tarad al Saadoun who headed the Saudi economic team, emphasized in a statement to Asharq Al Awsat that his teams discussed obstacles facing Saudi investors such as the difficulty in obtaining visas to enter the USA as well as the treatment to which they are subjected upon arrival to American airports. Al Saadoun further stated that the team suggested the signing of a consular agreement to facilitate movement for investors between the two countries.
According to the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council, the level of American investment has decreased in recent years from 45% to 28% when Americans had invested in 357 projects worth 21.9 billion dollars. Al Saadoun however argued that figures do not necessarily indicate a decrease in American investment, as there has been a significant increase in the level of investment in Saudi projects from other countries.
Al Saadoun stated that the proposals put forward would be reviewed in a conference in Riyadh towards the end of 2006. He added that the Saudi team, which includes members of government organizations and businessmen spoke about the development of the Saudi economy and strategic growth during the meeting with the Americans. The proposals included a possible agreement in the field of science and technology in accordance with a new Saudi project to establish a university for sciences and technology.
Al Saadoun denied that there were talks regarding the signing of a free-trade agreement between the two countries based on the fact that other Gulf countries have signed similar agreements or are negotiating the matter.
Holly Vineyard, the deputy assistant secretary of commerce for Africa, the Middle East and South Asia in the U.S department of commerce, underlined Saudi Arabia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, stating “this offers more practical horizons for both Saudi and foreign investors.” Vineyard added that after a meeting with the head of the Council of Saudi Chambers, Abdul Rahman al Rashid last week, the discussed agreement will aim to protect, promote and increase investments in both countries.