GCC’s Total Foreign Merchandise Trade Value Reaches $1.146 Tn

Foreign merchandise trade of the GCC countries is on the rise with the growth of exports (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Foreign merchandise trade of the GCC countries is on the rise with the growth of exports (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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GCC’s Total Foreign Merchandise Trade Value Reaches $1.146 Tn

Foreign merchandise trade of the GCC countries is on the rise with the growth of exports (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Foreign merchandise trade of the GCC countries is on the rise with the growth of exports (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) total international merchandise trade movement reached $1.146 trillion, compared to $840.7 billion in 2020, an increase of 36.4 percent.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia contributed about three-quarters of the volume of foreign merchandise trade, while the total merchandise exports in 2021 amounted to $668.6 billion, an increase of 52.5 percent compared to 2020.

The GCC Statistical Center revealed that national exports originating from GCC countries increased 57.2 percent to $564.4 billion, compared to 2020, while the value of re-exported goods saw a 30.9 percent increase to $104.2 billion in 2021.

The GCC’s merchandise balance surplus in 2021 increased 423.9 percent to $190.6 billion last year, compared to $36.4 billion in 2020.

Oil and its products accounted for 73.7 percent of GCC exports, amounting to about $415.9 billion in 2021, compared to $252.2 billion in 2020, with a growth rate of 64.9 percent over the previous year.

Other commodity exports from the GCC include plastics and its products at 5.9 percent, gold and precious stones at 5.4 percent, organic chemical products at 3.2 percent, and aluminum at 2.9 percent.

Machinery and electrical appliances represented 24 percent of the re-exported goods in the past year, to reach $25 billion, compared to $20 billion in 2020.

Other re-exports from the GCC include gold and precious stones at 25 percent, machinery and mechanical equipment at 11.8 percent, cars and vehicle parts at 10.2 percent, and oil and its products at 4.8 percent.

The gold and precious stones sector topped the list of imports with 16.2 percent, amounting to $77.2 billion, an increase of 46 percent compared to 2020, followed by machinery and electrical appliances at 13.2 percent, then machinery and automated equipment at 11.6 percent.

Other import products include cars and vehicle parts, accounting for nine percent, and pharmaceutical products, accounting for 3.4 percent.

China ranked first as GCC’s top trading partner in 2021 in total merchandise exports, accounting for 19.5 percent.

Last year, GCC’s exports to China reached $130.6 billion, compared to $71 billion in 2020, a growth of 83.9 percent, while India ranked second at 13.9 percent, followed by Japan at 11.5 percent, and South Korea at 5.9 percent.

In 2021, the GCC imported $98.3 billion in products from China, compared to $77.2 billion in 2020, an increase of 27.3 percent.

Total merchandise imports include the US at 8.6 percent, India at 7.5 percent, Japan at 4.6 percent, and Germany at 4.2 percent.



China’s Government: Natural Disasters Cost $3.3 Billion in First Quarter

FILE PHOTO: Paramilitary police officers remove snow from a road following snowfall in Beijing, China February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Paramilitary police officers remove snow from a road following snowfall in Beijing, China February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo
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China’s Government: Natural Disasters Cost $3.3 Billion in First Quarter

FILE PHOTO: Paramilitary police officers remove snow from a road following snowfall in Beijing, China February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Paramilitary police officers remove snow from a road following snowfall in Beijing, China February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

Floods, droughts, an earthquake and freezing conditions in China caused direct economic losses of 23.76 billion yuan ($3.28 billion) in the first quarter, the government said on Saturday.

The emergency management ministry cited damage from several cold spells, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, landslides in Yunnan province in the southwest and flooding on the Yellow River.

The disasters killed 79 people while 110,000 needed emergency relocation and resettlement and 10.4 million people across 26 regions and provinces were affected in the period, the ministry said in a report, according to Reuters.

Other natural disasters included a drought in the southwest affecting 424,000 hectares (10,500 acres) of crops, sandstorms in the northwest and forest fires in the southwest and south.

Last year natural disasters in China caused 345.45 billion yuan ($47.7 billion) of direct economic losses, with 691 people dead or missing, the ministry reported in January.

In January the ministry said it plans a three-year campaign to tackle problems hampering response times during disasters and accidents, including production safety lapses in sectors like mining.


Euro Reaches Five-Month Low

Common currency dropped nearly 1% to $1.0631 on Friday, breaching the previous low of the year set in February  - Reuters
Common currency dropped nearly 1% to $1.0631 on Friday, breaching the previous low of the year set in February - Reuters
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Euro Reaches Five-Month Low

Common currency dropped nearly 1% to $1.0631 on Friday, breaching the previous low of the year set in February  - Reuters
Common currency dropped nearly 1% to $1.0631 on Friday, breaching the previous low of the year set in February - Reuters

The euro fell to its lowest level this year as the European Central Bank looks set to cut interest rates before the Federal Reserve, fueling market discussion of just how much further it could fall.

The common currency dropped nearly 1% to $1.0631 on Friday, breaching the previous low of the year set in February and reaching the weakest in five months. It’s headed for a 2% weekly decline, which would be the worst since late 2022, according to Bloomberg.

The selloff, which follows the ECB’s clearest signal yet rate cuts are looming, is fueling talk among strategists that the euro can fall further to $1.05 by mid-year and even reach parity if the Fed stays on hold this year.

Banks including Bank of America Corp. ING Bank NV and Germany’s LBBW have already warned on the risk.

Adding to pressure on Friday were reports that Israel is bracing for a possible attack from Iran, which boosted demand for the safe-haven dollar.


Stocks Suffer Sharpest Weekly Decline during 2024

All three major indexes fell more than 1%, and registered losses on the week - Reuters
All three major indexes fell more than 1%, and registered losses on the week - Reuters
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Stocks Suffer Sharpest Weekly Decline during 2024

All three major indexes fell more than 1%, and registered losses on the week - Reuters
All three major indexes fell more than 1%, and registered losses on the week - Reuters

Stocks slumped to a second consecutive weekly loss on Friday, as intensifying tension in the Middle East prompted caution among investors.

All three major indexes fell more than 1%, and registered losses on the week.

The S&P 500 index (.SPX), opens new tab notched its biggest weekly percentage loss since January, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average's (.DJI), opens new tab weekly loss was its steepest since March 2023.

"When we look at what's happened in the macro space, inflation has taken a turn for the worse and that has put more pressure on companies to deliver this earnings season," said Mike Dickson, head of research at Horizon Investments in Charlotte, North Carolina, Reuters reported.

"Everyone's a bit jittery with intense focus on how good earnings need to be."

Results from a trio of big banks marked the unofficial launch of first-quarter earnings season.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), opens new tab, the biggest US bank by assets, posted a 6% profit increase but its net interest income forecast fell short of expectations. Its shares slid 6.5%.

Wells Fargo & Co's (WFC.N), opens new tab stock inched lower after profits fell 7% as net interest income dropped on weak borrowing demand.

Citigroup (C.N), opens new tab posted a loss after spending on employee severance and deposit insurance. Its stock dipped 1.7%.

Economic data this week, particularly Wednesday's hotter-than-expected Consumer Price Index report, has suggested that inflation could be stickier than previously thought, prompting investors to reset expectations about the timing and extent of the US Federal Reserve's rate cuts this year.

US Steel (X.N), opens new tab slid 2.1% after shareholders voted to approve a proposed merger with Nippon Steel Corporation (5401.T), opens new tab.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by a 4.19-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.16-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and nine new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 35 new highs and 211 new lows.


World Bank Chief Pushes Internal Reforms at Spring Meetings

World Bank chief Ajay Banga leaves after attending the G20 Finance Ministers, Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) and Finance & Central Bank Deputies (FCBD) meetings, at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar on July 17, 2023. (AFP)
World Bank chief Ajay Banga leaves after attending the G20 Finance Ministers, Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) and Finance & Central Bank Deputies (FCBD) meetings, at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar on July 17, 2023. (AFP)
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World Bank Chief Pushes Internal Reforms at Spring Meetings

World Bank chief Ajay Banga leaves after attending the G20 Finance Ministers, Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) and Finance & Central Bank Deputies (FCBD) meetings, at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar on July 17, 2023. (AFP)
World Bank chief Ajay Banga leaves after attending the G20 Finance Ministers, Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) and Finance & Central Bank Deputies (FCBD) meetings, at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar on July 17, 2023. (AFP)

World Bank President Ajay Banga said on Friday he plans to highlight a range of process improvements next week to speed up the development lender's loan approvals, improve the accountability of its 16,000 employees and attract private capital to projects.

Banga told reporters ahead of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings that the development lender had reduced its average 19-month project approval time by about three months and would cut it by another three months by the middle of next year.

Banga, a former MasterCard CEO who took over the helm of the World Bank last June, is guiding the lender's expansion of its traditional development and anti-poverty mission to include fighting climate change and other global crises. This requires far greater resources and a major expansion of its lending capacity, which was $128.3 billion in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2023.

The World Bank adjusted its loan-to-equity ratio to unlock another $40 billion of lending capacity over 10 years, but this falls far short of the trillions of dollars needed annually to finance the global energy transition and climate mitigation.

Banga said more steps were underway, including joint work with other multilateral development banks and credit ratings agencies to unlock the use of callable capital, the emergency capital pledged by governments but not paid in.

Banga said the World Bank will launch a new enterprise-wide platform for loan and insurance guarantees that puts it on a path to more than triple its guarantee issuances to $20 billion by 2030.

But a major new securitization initiative could also attract vast amounts of private capital.

"We are at the beginning of a years-long effort to build a securitization platform for the emerging markets, making it easier for institutional investor - pension funds, insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds - to bring some portion of the $70 trillion they manage to these developing countries."

The World Bank also is reforming its business planning and budgeting processes to find savings to redeploy elsewhere, including $144 million from improving productivity at its core International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Development Association arms, Banga said.

He added that a unified approach to real estate had saved the lender $150 million for 2023 and 2024.

"We want to start every year looking for 5% productivity savings from our expenses," Banga said. "This is all part of the work that we are trying to do to get the plumbing of the Bank to work even better."

In addition, the World Bank has recently launched a new "corporate scorecard" to measure its performance based on development and climate outcomes rather than dollars deployed. The new scorecard has 22 categories, down from the previous 153, Banga said.


EU Pledges Egypt 1 Billion Euros in Financial Aid

 A boy checks the calendula flowers, usually exported and used for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and traditional medicine, during the annual calendula flower harvest, at a field in Al Fayoum Governorate, southwest of Cairo, Egypt March 21, 2024. (Reuters)
A boy checks the calendula flowers, usually exported and used for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and traditional medicine, during the annual calendula flower harvest, at a field in Al Fayoum Governorate, southwest of Cairo, Egypt March 21, 2024. (Reuters)
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EU Pledges Egypt 1 Billion Euros in Financial Aid

 A boy checks the calendula flowers, usually exported and used for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and traditional medicine, during the annual calendula flower harvest, at a field in Al Fayoum Governorate, southwest of Cairo, Egypt March 21, 2024. (Reuters)
A boy checks the calendula flowers, usually exported and used for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and traditional medicine, during the annual calendula flower harvest, at a field in Al Fayoum Governorate, southwest of Cairo, Egypt March 21, 2024. (Reuters)

The EU on Friday said it would provide Egypt with 1 billion euros ($1.07 billion) in short-term financial aid to help stabilize the country's economy.

Egypt agreed last month to an expanded $8 billion support program with the International Monetary Fund and a deal with the EU worth billions to boost cooperation and help curb migration, as it is struggling with a prolonged economic crisis linked to chronic foreign currency shortages.

The 1 billion euros in short-term aid is part of a bigger package worth 5 billion euros in loans, the statement said. Another 4 billion euros were scheduled as longer-term assistance over the period 2024-2027, but still had to be adopted by the bloc's 27 members.

The loan is meant to address Cairo's deteriorating fiscal situation and financial needs, notably after the outbreak of the Gaza war, the Houthi militia attacks in the Red Sea and the repercussions of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, the statement said.


Industrial Metal Prices Jump

Copper has risen nearly 10 per cent since the start of 2024 and hit a 15-month high of $9,523 per metric tonne on Tuesday. (Photo by Reuters)
Copper has risen nearly 10 per cent since the start of 2024 and hit a 15-month high of $9,523 per metric tonne on Tuesday. (Photo by Reuters)
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Industrial Metal Prices Jump

Copper has risen nearly 10 per cent since the start of 2024 and hit a 15-month high of $9,523 per metric tonne on Tuesday. (Photo by Reuters)
Copper has risen nearly 10 per cent since the start of 2024 and hit a 15-month high of $9,523 per metric tonne on Tuesday. (Photo by Reuters)

Industrial metals including copper and zinc have outperformed global stocks this year as signs of a revival in demand from Chinese manufacturers add to concerns over tighter global supply.

An index tracking the performance of six industrial metals on the London Metal Exchange has climbed 8 per cent since the start of 2024, outpacing a 6.3 per cent rise for MSCI’s index of worldwide stocks, The Financial Times reported.

The index, which also includes lead, aluminium, tin and nickel, has risen sharply this month as investors grow more confident that an extended period of high global interest rates, intended to curb inflation, will not choke off economic growth.

At the same time, analysts have raised concerns that production snags from miners will constrain supplies. “Hopes for a global recovery in demand this year are supporting higher prices for industrial metals,” said Ewa Manthey, a commodities strategist at ING.

Traders have also welcomed the first signs of returning demand from China, whose economic performance has sputtered since it came out of its tough-line coronavirus policies in December 2022.

The latest Chinese purchasing managers’ index, published at the end of March, signalled an expansion in factory activity in March for the first time since September. Copper has risen nearly 10 per cent since the start of 2024 and hit a 15-month high of $9,523 per metric tonne on Tuesday.

The metal, which has a wide range of uses including in construction, power lines and electric vehicles, is widely seen as a key barometer of global economic health.

The gains have come as analysts fret over the impact of tighter supplies from miners.

In March, Chinese copper smelters, which process more than half of the world’s supplies of the red metal, agreed to embark on rare joint production cuts in order to cope with the shortage of raw materials, although no final deal has yet been reached.

Morgan Stanley now expects mined copper output to fall 0.7 per cent this year.


ECB Holds Rates at Record Highs, Signals Upcoming Cut

FILE PHOTO: The building of the European Central Bank (ECB) is seen amid a fog in Frankfurt, Germany December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The building of the European Central Bank (ECB) is seen amid a fog in Frankfurt, Germany December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo
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ECB Holds Rates at Record Highs, Signals Upcoming Cut

FILE PHOTO: The building of the European Central Bank (ECB) is seen amid a fog in Frankfurt, Germany December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The building of the European Central Bank (ECB) is seen amid a fog in Frankfurt, Germany December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

The European Central Bank kept interest rates at record highs on Thursday but sent an even clearer signal that it may be preparing to cut them as euro zone inflation continues to fall.

The central bank for the 20 countries that share the euro currency kept its deposit rate at 4.0%, where it has been since September as part of a 1-1/2-year effort to rein in prices.

But, with inflation now close to the ECB's 2% target, bank lending at a standstill and the economy barely growing, the ECB dropped fresh hints about a possible cut at its next meeting.

"If the Governing Council’s updated assessment of the inflation outlook, the dynamics of underlying inflation and the strength of monetary policy transmission were to further increase its confidence that inflation is converging to the target in a sustained manner, it would be appropriate to reduce the current level of monetary policy restriction," the ECB said, Reuters reported.

ECB policymakers, including those who typically favour higher rates, have been lining up behind a rate reduction at their June 6 meeting, provided key indicators including wage growth and underlying inflation continue to moderate.

But that decision may now be complicated by uncertaintywhether the Federal Reserve will be able cut its own rates in June as US inflation stays stubbornly above its goal.

ECB President Christine Lagarde is likely to be asked about the central bank's plans for June and the possibility of a further cut in July at her regular news conference at 1245 GMT.

With Thursday's decision, the ECB also left the interest rate on its daily and weekly loans for banks at 4.75% and 4.50% respectively.

Banks have barely tapped these auctions for years as they still have plenty of cash from last decade's money-printing programs.


China's Q1 GDP Growth Set to Slow to 4.6%, Keeps Pressure for More Stimulus

A pedestrian walks on an overpass past car traffic in Beijing, China January 12, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo
A pedestrian walks on an overpass past car traffic in Beijing, China January 12, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo
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China's Q1 GDP Growth Set to Slow to 4.6%, Keeps Pressure for More Stimulus

A pedestrian walks on an overpass past car traffic in Beijing, China January 12, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo
A pedestrian walks on an overpass past car traffic in Beijing, China January 12, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

China's economy likely grew 4.6% in the first quarter from a year earlier - the slowest in a year despite tentative signs of steadying, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday, maintaining pressure on policymakers to unveil more stimulus measures.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in the world's second-biggest economy is also expected to grow at a subdued 4.6% pace in 2024 year-on-year, according to the median forecast of 86 economists polled by Reuters, falling short of the official target of

The first-quarter growth forecast compares to 5.2% in the previous three months and is the lowest since the January-March quarter in 2023, underlining the strains in the economy despite stronger than expected January-February data on factory output and retail sales, as well as exports.

Analysts expected growth to pick up to 5.0% in the second quarter, but policymakers have their work cut out in trying to shore up confidence and demand.

China's economy has struggled to mount a strong and sustainable a post-COVID bounce, burdened by a protracted property downturn, mounting local government debts and weak private-sector spending.

The government has unveiled fiscal and monetary policy measures in a bid to achieve what analysts have described as an ambitious 2024 GDP growth target, noting that last year's growth rate of 5.2% was likely flattered by a comparison with a COVID-hit 2022.

"The economy has yet to recover," Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura, said in a note. "The property sector is still on the decline, the risk of another fiscal cliff is on the rise, geopolitical challenges are likely to sustain, and growth might face downward pressure again over the next few months."

Fitch cut its outlook on China's sovereign credit rating to negative on Wednesday, citing risks to public finances as Beijing channels more spending towards infrastructure and high-tech manufacturing, amid a shift away from the property sector.

China's consumer inflation cooled more than expected in March, while producer price deflation persisted, suggesting policymakers may need to launch more stimulus to spur demand.

On a quarterly basis, the economy is forecast to expand 1.4% in the first quarter, quickening from 1.0% in October-December, the poll showed.

The government is due to release first quarter GDP data, along with March activity data, at 0200 GMT on April 16.


OPEC Sees Robust Summer Oil Demand

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna, Austria June 19, 2018.   REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna, Austria June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
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OPEC Sees Robust Summer Oil Demand

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna, Austria June 19, 2018.   REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna, Austria June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

OPEC predicted robust fuel use in the summer months on Thursday and stuck to its forecast for relatively strong growth in global oil demand in 2024.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, in a monthly report, said world oil demand will rise by 2.25 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2024 and by 1.85 million bpd in 2025.
Both forecasts were unchanged from last month.
A boost to economic growth could give extra tailwind to oil prices, which have rallied above $90 a barrel this year on tighter supply and war in the Middle East.
OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, last week agreed to keep oil output cuts in place until the end of June.
"Despite some downside risks, the continuation of the momentum seen in the beginning of the year could result in further upside potential for global economic growth in 2024," OPEC said in the report.
Looking ahead to the summer, when fuel demand rises seasonally as people travel more, OPEC said global jet/kerosene fuel demand will rise by 600,000 bpd year on year in the second quarter, gasoline by 400,000 bpd and diesel by 200,000 bpd.
Following last week's meeting of a panel of top OPEC+ ministers, the full group will meet in June to decide whether to extend output cuts further or return some supply to the market.
"The robust oil demand outlook for the summer months warrants careful market monitoring, amid ongoing uncertainties, to ensure a sound and sustainable market balance," the report said.
OPEC sees world economic growth of 2.8% in 2024, steady from last month, and said the US economy was set to give the traditional summer boost to fuel demand.
"The upcoming driving season in the US is expected to provide the usual additional demand for transportation fuels," OPEC said.

The OPEC+ alliance has implemented a series of output cuts since late 2022 to support the market. A new cut of 2.2 million bpd for the first quarter took effect in January and was later extended to cover the second quarter.
The OPEC report said OPEC oil production was steady in March, rising by 3,000 bpd to 26.60 million bpd.
Demand for OPEC crude this year is set to average 28.5 million bpd, the report said, up 100,000 bpd from the previous forecast.


GACA to Organize Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh Next Month

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA)
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA)
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GACA to Organize Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh Next Month

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA)
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA)

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) is scheduled to organize the third edition of the Future Aviation Forum 2024 (FAF 2024) on May 20-22 in Riyadh.
The FAF 2024 will be organized under the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

It is set to attract more than 5,000 international experts from the aviation industry, leaders of international airlines, and officials from aviation authorities in participating countries.

The FAF 2024 will discuss global aviation issues, air transportation, the development of environmental sustainability in the civil aviation sector, enabling advanced air transport, and enhancing global connectivity.

The forum will focus on boosting the efforts to achieve the national strategic objectives of aviation, which aim to transform the Kingdom into a leading logistics center in the Middle East and provide an attractive investment environment in this vital sector.

It will also bring together the elite of heads of states, CEOs of international airlines, manufacturers, airport executives, and industry leaders to shape the future of international air transport.

The second edition of the forum witnessed the participation of 60 countries, the signing of 52 agreements and memoranda of understanding, the holding of 116 bilateral meetings, and the launch of several important policies and strategies for the civil aviation sector. In addition, many partnerships between the public and private sectors were signed.