Saudi Arabia promotes $283 billion infrastructure projects at US forum

Habib Shaikh
Filed on June 4, 2007

JEDDAH The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) was one of the constituents of the Universal Express Friendship Invitational Business Forum that was held in Orlando, Florida, recently to promote mega infrastructure projects launched by the Saudi government entailing total investments of $283 billion over the next three years.

Hosted by Friends of Saudi Arabia (FSA), the forum was held to discuss the economic and financial relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and to introduce US companies to the multi-billion dollar Saudi and Middle East market.

Events hosted by FSA serve as a tool for nurturing dialogue, debate, alliance-building and networking opportunities between people of diverse backgrounds with hopes to dispel misconceptions, establish friendships, and inspire global understanding and exchange.

FSA aims to promote better "people to people" understanding as well as bridging social and cultural gaps. It is an apolitical, secular, educational, non-profit organisation serving to build bridges of goodwill and understanding between Saudi Arabia and the international community.

Waleed Al Yahya, Adviser to the Governor of SAGIA and Chairman of FSA International, discussed the economic cities in the Western region, which are expected to attract investments worth over $80 billion in the next 10 years. The first of these cities is the $53.3 billion King Abdullah Economic City located near Jeddah.

Since its establishment in April 2000, after the announcement of a new Foreign Investment Law, SAGIA has been the gateway to investment in Saudi Arabia. SAGIA's mission is to create a pro-business environment, provide comprehensive services to investors and foster investment opportunities in energy, transportation and knowledge-based industries in Saudi Arabia.

The other constituents of the forum were the US Department of Commerce, the US Saudi Arabian Business Council, and the National US Arab Chamber of Commerce.

Surging trade: According to the US Census Bureau and the US Saudi Business Council, total US exports to Saudi Arabia for 2005 amounted to $6.8 billion, up from $5.2 billion the previous year. The US is also the leading foreign direct investor in Saudi Arabia, accounting for more than 25 per cent of the total inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

In 2005, the top three US states that exported to Saudi Arabia were Texas, New York and Florida. Exports from Florida alone were valued at $463 million in 2005.

"Close to 20,000 Americans live and work in Saudi Arabia and thousands more Americans derive their livelihood from the making of goods exported to the Saudi market," said Kenneth Mouradian, international trade specialist and Director of the US Department of Commerce, Orlando US Export Assistance Centre.

According to the US Department of Commerce estimates almost 10,000 jobs in Florida were created and sustained by exports to Saudi Arabia. Mouradian discussed international trade and investment opportunities specifically related to the Florida business circuits.

The three-day event also included a Women's Empowerment Forum hosted by the Universal Express Friendship Invitational Business Forum, Friends of Saudi Arabia and the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

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