Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi-UAE Economic Forum was inaugurated yesterday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, under the patronage of His Royal Highness, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, the governor of Riyadh and Deputy Governor, Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz. A large number of representatives from private and public sectors from both countries were in attendance, as were hundreds of officials and executives from private- and joint- investment, commercial and industrial companies and institutions.
UAE Minister of Economy, Sheikha Lubna Bint Khaled al Qasimi emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two countries, stressing that it was the only way to support the national economy. She acknowledged the Saudi government’s concern and care under the patronage of Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz who has dedicated significant efforts to consolidate relations between the two countries.
The economy minister highlighted the various investment opportunities for Saudis in the UAE, which include industry, tourism, real estate, education, health and services, in addition to projects that rely on energy sources, petrochemicals and natural gas. Furthermore, the minister said that development in Abu Dhabi’s oil services complex is underway and that the industrial center for oil and natural gas, which will be established in Dubai, will be a strong point of attraction for oil industries worldwide. She also referred to the investment opportunities in food industries; canning fish, vegetable and fruit, and the production of juices and milk, in addition to maritime industries such as the manufacture of ships, boats and yachts, fishing tools, and also medical tools and pharmaceuticals, among others.
She added that the forum was a new addition to the bilateral relations between the two countries, which have been witnessing rapid developments in all fields. The UAE is considered one of Saudi Arabia’s most important trading partners in the Arab region in general and in the Gulf in particular, she said; Saudi represents the fourth largest market for UAE products and the ranks fifth in countries that receive re-exports from the UAE, while the kingdom represents the ninth largest exporter to the UAE.
The UAE’s minister of economy stressed that this congregation at the forum will create direct and promising opportunities for economic investment companies and institutions in light of the participation of many decision-makers. Al Qasimi revealed that Saudi investments in the UAE stood at 35 billion Saudi Riyals (SAR) in the last year and that approximately 2,366 Saudi companies and 66 trade agencies are registered with the UAE Ministry of Economy.
“The Saudi business sector is contributing in a number of companies operating in the state, in addition to the stock market which has a weighty presence of Saudi businessmen who are active participants. We hope to strengthen and solidify the relations between Saudi and UAE investors,” she said.
Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry Hashim Yamani said that the forum presents an excellent opportunity to identify the strengths and weaknesses in addition to the efficient scientific means to attract more foreign investment while encouraging domestic savings to support the economic policy in both countries. He added that the forum presents the opportunity for the businessmen elite to resume dialogue and conclude fruitful ventures that will benefit both countries.
Yamani stressed that the kingdom offered an attractive atmosphere for foreign investments revealing that there were 1,389 foreign and joint projects with a capital investment of SAR 253 billion for 2006, with a growth rate of 25 percent rise in investments. He added that the Saudi government has plans to draw joint investments worth over SAR 300 billion for 2007.
The Saudi minister stressed five steps to help promote ties between the two countries: First, the establishment of large joint companies that are dependent on modern technology so as to produce goods and services capable of competing with rivals in the market. Second, to rely on trained manpower in both countries and third, to avoid the production of the same products, in addition to avoiding high production costs caused by small units. Fourth, he stressed the importance of supporting the diversification of revenue sources, directing it towards high value services such as financial and banking services, communications and transport, wholesale, retail trade, computer software, in addition to petrochemical industries and oil derivatives, among others. Fifth, to apply a policy of increasing exports while making use of the financial resources available in both countries.
Chairman of the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and industry Salah Salem al Shamsi said that contributing to the promotion of productivity and trust was the shared visions between Arab leaders and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in terms of the strategic issues relating to common interest. He highlighted the UAE’s economic progress over the past few years and revealed that it had achieved a growth rate of 23.4 percent in the last year alone. He added that sectors other than the oil sector contribute 63 percent of the UAE’s gross domestic product.
Abdel Rahman al Rashid, chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, indicated that there was a substantial increase in joint investment projects between Saudi and the UAE over the past few years. He revealed that joint investment projects in the kingdom are valued at SAR 154.4 billion up to the first quarter of this year and that UAE investment in these projects amounted to 20.7 percent. Al Rashid revealed that Saudi had ranked 38 among 177 countries in terms of the best investment climate worldwide and that foreign investments in the kingdom had risen by 120 percent over the past three years.
Asharq Al-Awsat’s Editor-in-Chief, Tariq Alhomayed, stressed the importance of the newspaper’s role in disseminating knowledge and building bridges between the two countries and providing openness to all nations in the world, which has become smaller through means of communication whereby people have become integrated into the picture rather than being detached observers.
Alhomayed said that Asharq Al-Awsat’s pride in being one of the leading sources of news means that it has hopes to also be a significant link that bridges the two countries, both of which have unique experiences that cannot be described as anything but successful.
In his speech, AlHomayed emphasized the importance of supporting successful experiences whilst highlighting the importance of communication between the states in the region, in addition to communication with nations worldwide. He stressed that communication between countries in the region is paramount to supporting success, encouraging new ideas and attempting to identify the deficient areas in the economic process in hope of resolving them through the relevant experts.
“We celebrate your generous hosting of the Saudi-UAE Economic Forum and the distinguished guests from the UAE here in the capital Riyadh,” he said. He added, “The Saudi-UAE Economic Forum is evidence of our ability to succeed. It is the fruit of joint cooperation between the private and public sectors in the two countries with the participation of the media coverage represented through the international Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.”