UK-GCC FTA Negotiations Make Significant Progress

Chief Negotiator tells Asharq Al-Awsat deal will increase trade 16%

Tom Wintle, Chief Negotiator UK-Gulf Cooperation Council FTA, and Acting Chief Negotiator for the GCC Fareed bin Saeed Al-Asaly. (Asharq al Awsat)
Tom Wintle, Chief Negotiator UK-Gulf Cooperation Council FTA, and Acting Chief Negotiator for the GCC Fareed bin Saeed Al-Asaly. (Asharq al Awsat)
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UK-GCC FTA Negotiations Make Significant Progress

Tom Wintle, Chief Negotiator UK-Gulf Cooperation Council FTA, and Acting Chief Negotiator for the GCC Fareed bin Saeed Al-Asaly. (Asharq al Awsat)
Tom Wintle, Chief Negotiator UK-Gulf Cooperation Council FTA, and Acting Chief Negotiator for the GCC Fareed bin Saeed Al-Asaly. (Asharq al Awsat)

Chief Negotiator – UK-GCC FTA, Department for International Trade Tom Wintle revealed that the UK and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have made “good progress” in negotiations to sign a free trade agreement (FTA).

Speaking on the eve of the third round of talks kick off between the parties in Riyadh, he told Asharq Al-Awsat that both sides are eager to strike an ambitious, comprehensive and modern deal.

He estimated that the deal would help increase trade between the UK and GCC by no less than 16% and increase the UK’s GDP by around £1.6 billion.

What does the UK aim to achieve from this third round of negotiations in Riyadh?

My team and I are excited to be in Riyadh for Round 3 of negotiations. We have made good progress so far and we want to keep the momentum going. This week we have an opportunity to work with GCC colleagues to build on our work and tackle some of the more challenging parts of the deal.

A free trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and GCC will be a substantial economic opportunity for all of our countries, and a significant moment in the UK-GCC relationship.

How many negotiators are involved from both sides?

In total, more than 100 UK negotiators from across our government are taking part in this round of negotiations. Round 3 is taking place in a hybrid fashion, with a number of UK negotiators travelling to Riyadh and others taking part virtually. We expect similar numbers of GCC negotiators.

How optimistic are you regarding reaching a deal? And do you have a targeted timeline for concluding the negotiations and signing the deal?

There is strong political will on both sides. The UK and GCC have committed to negotiate an ambitious, comprehensive and modern free trade agreement fit for the 21st century. We’ve made significant progress for such an early stage of negotiations and have discussed every policy area in negotiations so far.

We have always been clear that negotiating an ambitious agreement is more important than meeting any particular deadline. Our aim is to secure a deal that delivers the maximum possible benefit for businesses on both sides.

If a deal is signed, what impact will it have on trade between the UK and the GCC?

A UK-GCC FTA will be mutually beneficial for the UK and GCC economies. Our economies complement one another and there is limited direct competition between our businesses. A trade deal will strengthen supply chains, helping to grow the domestic industries that we each are specialized in.

Our analysis shows that a deal is expected to increase trade between the UK and the GCC by at least 16% and increase UK GDP by around £1.6 billion in the long run. A highly ambitious FTA, which the UK is pushing for, could deliver even greater gains. So, the more ambitious we are in negotiations, the greater the gains for everyone. It is a win-win scenario.

Which policy areas are discussed in the negotiations? And which are excluded?

We have discussed all areas that are included in some of the most ambitious and modern FTAs that have been agreed upon around the world in recent years. This involves going beyond the arrangements we already have in place to remove barriers, improve the business environment and make it easier to invest in each other’s economies. We have also discussed working together on modern areas of trade, such as innovation, digital and the environment.

We are keen to do a deal that would bring the biggest possible benefits to UK and GCC businesses. An FTA can support the GCC countries’ Vision Plans and enhance the private sector's ability to drive economic growth. We have genuinely complementary economies and there are exciting opportunities in all sectors.

The GCC is equivalent to the UK’s seventh largest export market. A deep, comprehensive FTA with the whole bloc will deliver the greatest economic and strategic benefits for both sides.

Our priority is an ambitious agreement with the whole of the GCC and there is strong political will from all sides. Within this agreement, there is the opportunity to secure additional commitments where some members can go further. We will make full use of these opportunities to ensure we maximize the benefits with individual GCC Member States.

Has Brexit bolstered the UK’s negotiating position?

The UK took control of its trade policy when we left the European Union. We are the fifth biggest economy in the world and the second biggest services exporter. Now we are independent we can negotiate modern, comprehensive and ambitious FTAs with partners like the GCC.

We have already signed trade deals with 71 countries, plus the European Union that account for £814 billion of trade, and we are now negotiating new deals with GCC, India, Canada, Mexico and Israel.

By the same token, do current economic woes in the UK weaken its negotiating hand?

The UK was the fastest-growing economy in the G7 last year, with capital investment at record levels of around £600 billion maintained over the next five years. We are the sixth biggest investor in the GCC, with a total of £31 billion invested in the last 20 years. Our bilateral trading relationship increased by 76% according to the latest annual figures, from £23.6 billion to £54.5 billion. However, the real strength of our relationship is measured in decades and centuries: ours is a long-term partnership, not one based on economic cycles.



Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources to Participate in LEAP 2024

Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources to Participate in LEAP 2024
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Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources to Participate in LEAP 2024

Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources to Participate in LEAP 2024

The Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources will participate with a pavilion in the third edition of LEAP 2024 to highlight the industrial and mining transformation in the Kingdom and promote investment opportunities in the two sectors.

 

The event will be held in Riyadh from March 4 to 7.

 

Several other government entities will be present at the ministry's pavilion.

 

The ministry aims to engage with global investors and showcase the services, incentives, and opportunities it offers, as well as to highlight the objectives of the National Industrial Strategy and its contribution to diversifying national economic revenues.


Non-Profit Sector in Saudi Arabia Witnesses Rapid Growth in Early 2024

Non-Profit Sector in Saudi Arabia Witnesses Rapid Growth in Early 2024
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Non-Profit Sector in Saudi Arabia Witnesses Rapid Growth in Early 2024

Non-Profit Sector in Saudi Arabia Witnesses Rapid Growth in Early 2024

The National Center for the Development of the Non-Profit Sector in Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday the latest developments in the growth of the non-profit sector for February 2024.

The sector witnessed the registration of 56 private associations, eight private institutions, and 21 family funds in various priority development areas and several regions across the Kingdom.

The total number of registered non-profit entities in the Kingdom is now 4,656. The number of volunteers in 2024 has also reached over 113,000 in various fields, with over 4 million volunteer hours and 43,000 volunteer opportunities.

The center highlighted the continuous growth of the non-profit sector in terms of the number of non-profit entities, the number of volunteers, and the increase in the number of technical supervisory units in government agencies.

The center pointed to the progress achieved through the collaboration of all entities in the non-profit sector system and the development observed in the governance of non-profit entities, which achieved advanced levels of governance in 2023. This confirms the commitment of the sector's entities to comply with the targeted development roles.

As part of its supervisory and regulatory role, the center has issued decisions against several non-profit entities and individuals since the beginning of 2024. They included 11 warnings to civil associations, two decisions to dismiss the board of directors of a civil association, two decisions to reform the interim board of directors, the dissolution of two civil associations, and the start of their liquidation, and the referral of four civil associations to the Public Prosecution.

The center emphasizes the importance of non-profit entities' commitment to the rules and regulations, guidelines, and procedures governing the non-profit sector. It invites all non-profit entities to communicate through customer care channels via the unified call center 19918, its website, and its social media accounts.

The center stresses the need for integration between it and non-profit entities to contribute to the development of the non-profit sector and maximize the social and economic impact of the sector to achieve the desired national goals.

The National Center for the Development of the Non-Profit Sector aims to organize and activate the role of non-profit sector entities, expand them in development areas, and work on integrating government efforts in providing licensing services to these entities, financial and administrative supervision of the sector, and increasing coordination and support.


Energy Ministry: Saudi Arabia to Extend Voluntary Cut of 1Mln Barrels per Day until End Q2 of 2024

Energy Ministry: Saudi Arabia to Extend Voluntary Cut of 1Mln Barrels per Day until End Q2 of 2024
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Energy Ministry: Saudi Arabia to Extend Voluntary Cut of 1Mln Barrels per Day until End Q2 of 2024

Energy Ministry: Saudi Arabia to Extend Voluntary Cut of 1Mln Barrels per Day until End Q2 of 2024

An official source from the Saudi Ministry of Energy announced on Sunday that Saudi Arabia will extend its voluntary cut of one million barrels per day, which was implemented in July 2023, until the end of the second quarter of 2024 in coordination with some OPEC+ participating countries.

 

The Kingdom’s production will be approximately 9 million barrels per day until the end of June 2024.

 

Afterwards, in order to support market stability, these additional cut volumes will be returned gradually subject to market conditions.

 

The source also noted that this voluntary cut is in addition to the voluntary cut of 500,000 barrels a day previously announced by the Kingdom in April 2023, which extends until the end of December 2024.

 

The source confirmed that this additional voluntary cut comes to reinforce the precautionary efforts made by OPEC+ countries with the aim of supporting the stability and balance of oil markets.


OAPEC Secretary General: World Economy Will Fall in Deep Slump without Oil, Gas

Secretary General of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) Jamal Issa Al-Loughani. (OAPEC)
Secretary General of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) Jamal Issa Al-Loughani. (OAPEC)
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OAPEC Secretary General: World Economy Will Fall in Deep Slump without Oil, Gas

Secretary General of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) Jamal Issa Al-Loughani. (OAPEC)
Secretary General of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) Jamal Issa Al-Loughani. (OAPEC)

Jamal Issa Al-Loughani, Secretary General of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), predicted that the world would become primitive if oil-producing countries listened to climate activist demands and stopped producing gas and oil.

He said the world will witness major power outages, companies would be forced to close and global trade would come to a halt.

Without fuel, supply chains that primarily rely on trucks, railways and marine shipping will come to a stop, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Moreover, this will lead to the collapse of the global health system that relies on oil and gas in operating hospitals and transporting patients. The collapse will extend to the production of medicine, equipment and medical supplies, he added.

Ultimately, the world will fall into a deep global slump, he warned.

He remarked however, that given this bleak outlook, the scenario is highly unlikely to unfold.

“We must stress that there can be no imagining a global economy that is not driven by the main engine that is the oil and gas industry,” he declared.

Oil and gas are the main factors on which economic relations between nations are based, providing millions of jobs across the globe, Al-Loughani said.

He noted, however, the growing number of challenges in developing the oil industry and coordinating energy policies between OAPEC member states. He cited unified efforts to secure the delivery of oil to markets through fair and reasonable conditions and providing the suitable conditions for capital and investors in the petrol industry among members.

This is one of the main goals of OAPEC, he remarked. One of the hurdles facing it, he continued, are misleading calls for reducing investments in oil and gas related to the environment and climate change.

He said there is a great insistence on tying an emissions-free environment to reducing the consumption of oil and gas. These calls omit the fact that producing oil and gas and controlling emissions through clean technologies help reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

OAPEC has indeed started to implement this in recent years as part of the aim to bolster sustainable energy systems and contribute to the global climate change efforts, Al-Loughani added.

OAPEC was founded by Saudi Arabia, Libya and Kuwait in Beirut in 1968. It is based in Kuwait and its founding was viewed as an Arab accomplishment amid trying conditions that followed the 1967 war.

Energy and emissions

Al-Loughani stressed that the oil and gas industry played a major role in the growth of the global economy in recent decades.

In spite of the pressure it is coming under by some countries that had initially backed it, the industry will certainly continue to play its role in the future, he stated.

He emphasized that OAPEC has started to meet global trends related to reducing carbon emissions.

He noted the constant investment, innovation and development of clean technologies, such as carbon capture and storage.

Al-Loughani remarked however, that demand on oil and gas will continue to remain great in the global energy mix despite the rise in the share of renewable energy, especially solar and wind power.

Oil markets

On the drop in investments in the oil sector after some countries shifted to clean energy, Al-Loughani acknowledged the decline, especially in production and exploration, which will lead to a slowdown in the growth of global reserves.

This in turn may impact overall supplies to meet growing demand and consequently lead to rises in energy prices, he predicted.

He revealed that oil exploration and production investments reached around 397.6 billion dollars in 2023, meaning there is a gap estimated at over 17 percent in investments needed to meet global oil demand until 2045, which is estimated at 480 billion dollars annually, according to OPEC.

So, there is a need to bolster investments in the oil industry overall to avoid jeopardizing global energy security and increase inflation, which will in turn slow down the shift towards a clean sustainable energy system, he urged.

Arab reserves

On the role of Arab countries, specifically Saudi Arabia, in securing oil supplies to the global energy market, he said they are playing a main role to that end given their massive reserves and share of global production.

He stressed that Saudi Arabia constantly strives to ensure the security of oil supplies and provide trusted sources of energy, especially when it comes to economic development, while confronting the challenges of climate change.

This has been demonstrated in Saudi Arabia’s pioneering efforts in founding OPEC+ and ensuring its success. He also cited the precautionary measures taken by the group to support the stability and balance of the global oil market through additional voluntary reductions on production.

Such measures are necessary to achieve sustainable growth in the global economy, he added.

He also noted Saudi Arabia’s cooperation with its partners in the G20 with the aim of achieving common interests and maintaining fair costs for all effective parties in the energy market, from producers, investors and consumers. These efforts were highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Oxagon CEO to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Hope to Redefine Concept of Industrial Cities

Oxagon industrial city is located in NEOM in northwestern Saudi Arabia. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Oxagon industrial city is located in NEOM in northwestern Saudi Arabia. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Oxagon CEO to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Hope to Redefine Concept of Industrial Cities

Oxagon industrial city is located in NEOM in northwestern Saudi Arabia. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Oxagon industrial city is located in NEOM in northwestern Saudi Arabia. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Oxagon industrial city is hoping to redefine the concept of industrial cities in the world.

Located in NEOM city in northwestern Saudi Arabia, it is aiming to confront some of the world’s most pressing industrial challenges with the least impact on the environment and planet. This represents NEOM’s vision of sustainability, economic diversity and protecting the environment.

Oxagon CEO Vishal Wanchoo told Asharq Al-Awsat that industrialists will be able to decrease their carbon footprint by using renewable energy at a 100% through operations that will be activated at the appropriate time to confront the challenges imposed by traditional industrial locations.

Oxagon, he stressed, embodies NEOM’s approach in changing the concept of the traditional industrial city and looking towards establishing a new model that revolves around man and innovation and consolidates values of sustainability to act as a gateway to advanced and clean sectors and industries at NEOM.

Oxagon boasts a strategic location on the Red Sea, he added, citing the NEOM port that will act as the main trade gateway to northwestern Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, he said industrial companies that are seeking to expand their operations and establish factories in Oxagon will be encouraged to adopt the best sustainable practices followed by NEOM.

This will help drive the circular economy, he explained. This can be achieved through the application of four strategies: design, industry, utilization and recoupment.

This approach will support the highly advanced marine port and integrated supply chain network. It will allow manufacturers at Oxagon to directly and transparently reach markets in NEOM, Saudi Arabia and the whole region through the most sustainable transportation means, Wanchoo went on to say.

Moreover, he revealed that plans are in place to build a system of research and innovation that will make Oxagon the optimal destination for innovators and entrepreneurs where they can be empowered to innovate and manufacture their products and put them on the market in NEOM or abroad.

NEOM port will act as a vital link in the direct connection with global markets, he said. This will boost the competitiveness of the region and help the growth of the Kingdom’s economy.

Manufacturing at Oxagon will help in social and economic development across NEOM, he stressed.

Industry at NEOM will be based on the fourth industrial revolution and the development of talents. This will allow companies to develop sustainable products and services.

At the end of the day, everything taking place at Oxagon supports NEOM’s ambitions and is aligned with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Wanchoo added.

Moreover, he stressed that the city’s location on the Red Sea provides a perfect opportunity for industrial companies seeking to expand their operations to enter new ones. They will also benefit from Saudi Arabia’s strategic location as an entry point to main and greater markets and provide faster contacts with local and international markets.

Wanchoo said what Oxagon was doing was radically different from what traditional industrial cities were doing.

He explained that it is working on empowering an industrial model that beats with the development of its society. “This encourages us to provide a high quality of living standard for residents and workers alike,” he added. Oxagon will provide a vibrant social environment for talents, researchers, experts and entrepreneurs.

He revealed that work is underway on the expansion of NEOM port that will serve the world’s largest vessels. The port is expected to have a capacity of over 1.5 million containers by 2025.

The year 2026 will witness the first phase of the construction of the first permanent residential compound in NEOM and Yotel Hotel will open its doors in Oxagon.

NEOM has also started building the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in Oxagon and it will enter production in 2026.

The plant will be a major player in creating job opportunities and bolster local production, added Wanchoo.

“Oxagon is an ambitious city that is large in size, which poses a challenge for us,” he added. “That is why we are keen on forging partnerships with companies from around the world to ensure that our vision is translated into reality.”


Türkiye's Feb Exports to Russia Down 34% from Year Earlier

Russian-flagged bulk carrier SV Nikolay is unloaded at Izmir port in Türkiye June 25, 2022. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Russian-flagged bulk carrier SV Nikolay is unloaded at Izmir port in Türkiye June 25, 2022. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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Türkiye's Feb Exports to Russia Down 34% from Year Earlier

Russian-flagged bulk carrier SV Nikolay is unloaded at Izmir port in Türkiye June 25, 2022. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Russian-flagged bulk carrier SV Nikolay is unloaded at Izmir port in Türkiye June 25, 2022. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Türkiye's exports to Russia in February fell 33% year on year to $670 million, trade ministry data showed on Saturday.

That was down from $1.1 billion in February 2023.

Imports from Russia fell 36.65% to $1.3 billion from $2 billion a year earlier, Reuters reported.

A US threat to impose sanctions on financial firms doing business with Russia has chilled Turkish-Russian trade, disrupting or slowing some payments for both imported oil and Turkish exports, Reuters reported this week.


Türkiye Focuses on Industry, Digital Transformation to Improve Investment Environment

Yilmaz speaks during the summit in London. (From his account on the X platform)
Yilmaz speaks during the summit in London. (From his account on the X platform)
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Türkiye Focuses on Industry, Digital Transformation to Improve Investment Environment

Yilmaz speaks during the summit in London. (From his account on the X platform)
Yilmaz speaks during the summit in London. (From his account on the X platform)

Türkiye has finalized a plan to improve the investment environment, with the aim to simplify legislation and administrative procedures and accelerate digital and green transformation in industry. The country has also pledged to continue working to reduce inflation and achieve permanent price stability.

Turkish Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz said that within the scope of studies of the Coordination Council for Improving the Investment Environment, an action plan consisting of 57 items was prepared in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, the private sector and public institutions, to facilitate and simplify legislation and administrative and judicial processes related to investments in the country.

The plan also seeks to develop locations for investment opportunities, especially for industry, provide target-oriented financing, accelerate the digital and green transformation of industry, and meet the needs of vocational training and labor markets.

On the other hand, Yilmaz stressed the Turkish government’s commitment to reduce inflation to achieve permanent price stability.

Addressing a meeting with international investors in London on the sidelines of the Global Soft Power Summit 2024, the minister said that the medium-term economic program announced by the Turkish government last September was achieving its desired goals.

He noted that although inflation has reached its peak at about 65 percent, the Turkish government is confident that anti-inflation policies will lead to a sharp downward trend in the second half of 2024. He expected inflation to reach about 15 percent in 2025, with a goal of reaching single-digit numbers in 2026.

Yilmaz pointed to the quality and diversity of investments in Türkiye, with its strategic location at the crossroads of three continents, in addition to its wide network of free trade agreements, which makes it a center for commercial and economic activities.


Gas Exporting Countries Meet in Algeria to 'Strengthen Sovereignty' over Resources

The Algerian Minister of Energy welcomes delegations participating in the Gas Summit. (Ministry of Energy)
The Algerian Minister of Energy welcomes delegations participating in the Gas Summit. (Ministry of Energy)
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Gas Exporting Countries Meet in Algeria to 'Strengthen Sovereignty' over Resources

The Algerian Minister of Energy welcomes delegations participating in the Gas Summit. (Ministry of Energy)
The Algerian Minister of Energy welcomes delegations participating in the Gas Summit. (Ministry of Energy)

Leaders of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum will gather on Saturday in the Algerian capital to discuss stabilizing energy prices and meeting the growing demand for gas, especially since the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February 2022, as well as defending gas as a clean source of energy, in the context of ongoing talks on reducing carbon emissions.

In remarks on Friday, Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab said that the summit constitutes an important opportunity for promoting dialogue and constructive cooperation among member states.

He added that Algeria is “a leading country in the natural gas industry, investing greatly in the areas of exploration, development, processing, transportation and marketing of natural gas.”

The Algerian minister underlined that the country was also working to strengthen its position as a historical and reliable supplier of natural gas, continue to fulfill its obligations, and conduct a continuous dialogue with its partners to find appropriate solutions to confront the challenges facing the natural gas industry.

On the eve of the launch of the experts’ preparatory sessions on Thursday, Arkab said that joint cooperation between gas-producing countries will be on top of the talks of the 7th Summit of Gas Exporting Countries.

He stressed that the discussions will address “cooperation to ensure global energy security, serve the common interest through long-term commercial contracts, and enhance joint efforts in the field of investment and financing future projects.”

Sources in the Algerian government told Asharq Al-Awsat that the meeting would mainly discuss the increasing demand for energy and the role of gas in contributing “positively to the energy transition,” in addition to the issue of removing carbon from natural gas, by employing advanced technology to make energy cleaner, especially with regard to electricity production and industries that have large gas emissions, such as steel, cement, and chemicals.

The Gas Exporting Countries Forum is an international governmental organization founded in Tehran in 2001, and includes the world’s major natural gas producers. The political and economic bloc seeks to strengthen the sovereignty of its members over their natural gas resources, and to intensify cooperation and dialogue on energy-related issues.

The Forum includes 12 permanent member states (Russia, Iran, Qatar, which are the largest producers, Venezuela, Nigeria, the Emirates, Trinidad, Tobago, Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, and Libya), and 7 members with an “observer” status (Angola, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mozambique and Peru).


Why Did 630 Int’l Companies Choose Saudi Arabia as Regional Headquarters?

An aerial view of the Saudi capital, Riyadh (AFP)
An aerial view of the Saudi capital, Riyadh (AFP)
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Why Did 630 Int’l Companies Choose Saudi Arabia as Regional Headquarters?

An aerial view of the Saudi capital, Riyadh (AFP)
An aerial view of the Saudi capital, Riyadh (AFP)

While Saudi Arabia is preparing to host 450 new regional headquarters for a number of international companies, in addition to issuing 180 licenses, Asharq Al-Awsat interviewed experts about the factors that attract companies to the Kingdom.

Saudi Minister of Investment Eng. Khaled Al-Falih has recently announced an agreement to grant 450 foreign investors licenses to establish their regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia, mainly in Riyadh.

Giant projects

Experts confirmed that the Kingdom offers giant investment opportunities and projects that are attractive to international companies, in addition to the country’s strategic location that connects three continents and allows reaching 40 rapidly growing markets within four hours by plane.

Experts say the Kingdom is the ideal place for multinational companies to establish their regional headquarters. The country is witnessing economic transformations and has an attractive investment environment, as the government has worked on regulatory and legislative reforms that facilitate the process of foreign companies accessing the Saudi market.

Geographical location

The head of the Saudi Governance Center, Nasser Al-Sahli, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia was the largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa, and occupied the 18th place among the largest economies in the world, in addition to its distinguished geographical location that makes it the focus of attention of major international companies.

Al-Sahli stated that Saudi Arabia was currently working on several giant projects, in addition to having all the capabilities and incentives that attract the private sector.

In return, many foreign firms are looking for opportunities to expand their business and access these projects, he remarked, noting that not having a regional office in the Kingdom will deprive them of these promising opportunities.

For his part, economic expert Ahmed Al-Shehri told Asharq Al-Awsat that international companies are choosing Saudi Arabia as the headquarters for their regional offices, based on the country’s economic prosperity and tangible progress in all international indicators.

He added that the government has implemented legislative and regulatory amendments, in addition to providing incentives to facilitate entry procedures for foreign companies.

Al-Shehri stated that Saudi Arabia currently represents an attractive investment destination due to its geographical location that connects three continents, making it an ideal place for multinational companies to establish their regional offices.

In February 2021, Saudi Arabia announced plans to cease contracting with companies whose regional headquarters are not in the Kingdom by Jan. 1, 2024, to help create local jobs, boost investment, and ensure economic diversification within Vision 2030 and the strategic plan for Riyadh.


Oil Affected by Chinese, US Demand Indicators

Oil prices are mixed amid different demand indicators  - AFP
Oil prices are mixed amid different demand indicators - AFP
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Oil Affected by Chinese, US Demand Indicators

Oil prices are mixed amid different demand indicators  - AFP
Oil prices are mixed amid different demand indicators - AFP

Oil prices are mixed amid different demand indicators as China's latest data point to a fifth straight month of contraction in the manufacturing sector, while the US PCE index showed inflation in line with economists' expectations.

"Brent crude prices continued to trade sideways this week," analysts at commodities research firm BMI said in a note.

"However, timespreads for Brent futures contracts have widened. The move to stronger backwardation will be supportive of a more bullish stance for prices as markets are pricing in tightening in the months ahead." they added.

Meanwhile, uncertainty over a potential ceasefire in Gaza and expectations that OPEC+ will extend its production cuts into the second quarter continue to weigh on sentiment.

Brent crude was flat at $81.94 a barrel, while WTI was down 0.1% at $78.18 a barrel.