Economy, defense focus of tie-ups as May visits Saudi Arabia

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Britain said on Wednesday it would help Saudi Arabia to diversify its oil-dependent economy as British Prime Minister Theresa May visited the Gulf kingdom.

May and Saudi King Salman would discuss “tax and privatisation standards to help Saudi Arabia diversify its economy and become less reliant on oil”, a statement released by her office said.

Britain will also assist Riyadh in “building a reformed Ministry of Defence” and reviewing defence capabilities, the statement said.

May is visiting the oil-rich kingdom as she seeks to secure investment and trade after Britain officially started a two-year countdown to leave the European Union.

Ministerial talks

May on Tuesday held talks with a string of officials including Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, as well as the country’s oil and energy minister.

The British premier also met Sarah al-Suhaimi, the first woman to head the Saudi stock exchange and a Saudi investment bank, and Princess Reema bint Bandar, head of the women’s section at the General Authority for Sports.

As part of its economic diversification strategy, Saudi Arabia has announced plans to increase women’s participation in the workforce from 22 to 28 percent by 2020.

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