By Lulwa Shalhoub and Frank Kane
More than 90 business leaders from Saudi Arabia and the US are set to convene in Riyadh on Saturday for a high-intensity day of deal-making and business talks.
The Saudi-US CEO Forum, which coincides with US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, aims to give a boost to trade relations between the two nations, organizers said.
Multiple bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) are expected to be signed, and new licenses are to be issued for US companies to operate in the Kingdom.
At least 90 CEOs and top executives — split roughly evenly between those from Saudi Arabia and the US — are set to attend, according to a representative of the organizer.
High-profile attendees from the Saudi side will include: Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister; Majid Al-Qassabi, minister of commerce and investment; Amin H. Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco; Lubna Olayan, CEO of Olayan Financing Co.; and Yousef Al-Benyan, CEO of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).
Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Saudi minister of finance, and Ali Al-Ghafis, minister of labor and social development, are also expected to attend.
Visitors from the US will include: Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical; Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup; Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE; Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco; and Laurence Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock.
The forum will feature four roundtable discussions. Al-Falih will chair a session on industrial capacity building, while Al-Qassabi will lead a discussion on the progress the Kingdom has made to foster business partnerships.
Sessions on privatization and Saudi investment opportunities will be chaired by Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, vice minister of economy and planning, and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, managing director of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, respectively.
The Saudi-US CEO Forum is scheduled to be held annually to demonstrate the strategic partnership between the countries, with the aim of creating more jobs.
Economic relations between Saudi Arabia and the US began in the 1930s, when the Kingdom’s founder King Abdulaziz granted the right of oil exploration to the American company Standard Oil, with a 66-year contract. The Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) was formed in 1944 and became known as Saudi Aramco in 1988.
Edward Burton, president and CEO of the US-Saudi Business Council, said that Saudi Arabia has been a “prolific” investor in the US in more modern times.
“Companies like SABIC and Aramco have made big commitments to the US, and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is the biggest individual investor from Saudi Arabia, with hotel and equity investments like Twitter,” he told Arab News.
“Saudis are also big investors in US real estate in Florida, California and New York. They are no strangers to the financial attraction of America, even before President Trump.”