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Riyadh business forum to reinforce Saudi-French ties

The forum will be attended by a number of Saudi and French officials including Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman

Rajia Aboulkheir

Published: Updated:

Al Arabiya News sources, revealed earlier this year that the signing of contracts worth $12 billion, between Saudi Arabia and France, marked the beginning of many joint economic projects and closer coordination that will emerge further in the next few months.

It seems that less than four months were enough for the two countries to renew their drive for closer economic ties with the opening on Monday of The Saudi-French Forum on Business Opportunities.

“The forum is a mutual initiative that comes in continuation of what had started in June,” Mazen al Sudairi, a Saudi-based senior financial analyst, told Al Arabiya News.

“It reflects once again the close economic ties the two countries have been developing,” he said, “At the executive level, both countries will try to sign various agreements and reach valuable deals.”

In recent years, bilateral trade between Paris and Riyadh has boomed, reaching more than 10 billion euros in 2014, according to Agence France Presse.

In June, the two countries announced the signing of 10 contracts worth $12 billion, the bulk of which will take the form of a direct investment.

Fighting unemployment

Sudairi said that the forum comes at a time when Saudi Arabia has “a strong determination in improving its private sector to enhance the job creation.”

“The Kingdom also wants to bring the French savoir-fair (know-how) to its territory,” he said, “Saudi has a shortage when it comes to health care, technology and agriculture while France is advanced in all these fields.”

Saudi Arabia’s government's Central Department of Statistics and Information put the unemployment at 651,305 unemployed citizens, the majority being women.

Important and encouraging

Focusing more on the political aspect of the forum, Georges Sassine, a Paris-based political analyst, told Al Arabiya News that the forum was “really an important and encouraging move for both countries.”

“The forum shows the close political relations between the two countries,” he said adding that the positions of France and Saudi became “increasingly similar regarding many matters in the region in recent months.”

France and Saudi Arabia have been reinforcing their links as Riyadh seeks to broaden ties with top Western powers beyond its traditional ally, the United States, especially since relations between the Gulf monarchies and America have deteriorated after Washington stroke a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

Away from Iran, the two countries have also been sharing similar views on Syria saying that there was no future for President Bashar al-Assad in his war-torn country.

Sassine added that no one can really plan what the agreements and contracts will be given that the French government does not reveal anything before it is finalized.

Second edition

The forum, which is the second of its kind, is organized by the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

It is expected to run for two days and be attended by a number of Saudi and French officials including Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Comparing the two editions, Sudairi, said: “the first one was organized voluntarily while the second one has a more strategic aspect.”

“Saudi Arabia will try to use this forum to reach the economic goals it has and straighten its economy.”

The first edition of the event, which took place in Paris in 2013, had attracted more than 650 Saudi and French business tycoons.

According to Mohammed Binladin, head of the Saudi-French Business Council (SFBC), the three-day event achieved remarkable results.