How Saudi-US trade relations have progressed over 85 years

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Trade relations between Saudi Arabia and the US are considered a critical component of the relationship between the two countries.

These relations date back to 1933 when the American Standard Oil Company of California discovered oil in Saudi Arabia. Since then, leaders of both countries have demonstrated keenness to develop trade and investment relations by establishing joint councils, committees and exchange trade delegation visits.

According to preliminary 2017 data released by the General Organization for Statistics, the US ranks second in terms of the volume of trade exchange with the kingdom which is valued at SAR 135 billion.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi exports to the US stand at SAR 69 billion, which represents 51 percent of trade exchange with the US.

Metals, organic chemical products, fertilizers, aluminum and its derivatives, and plastic and its derivatives are some of the most important goods exported by Saudi Arabia to the US. While medical equipment, electrical appliances, cars, planes and their spare parts are among the most important goods imported by Saudi Arabia from the United States.

Joint ventures worth SAR 57 billion

The number of Saudi-US joint ventures and projects operating in Saudi Arabia, is 474 of which 90 are industrial units and 384 belong to the service sector.

The total capital invested in these companies is about SAR 57 billion.

In 2003, both countries signed an agreement to establish a Saudi-US Trading and Investment Council (TIFA) with representatives from both sides. The Saudi side is headed by the Trade and Investment ministry while the US side is headed by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), along with officials of other government sectors.

The council serves businessmen and also seeks to remove any obstacle facing investment and trade between the two countries.

The council has held five rounds of discussions since it was established, last of which was on January 2017 in Riyadh. It has made several recommendations related to trading, specifications, standards, quality, customs on items such as food, medicine and areas such as consumer protection, intellectual property and the Saudi fund for development.

Decision-makers’ forum

The Saudi-US Business Opportunities Forum, headed by trade ministers of both the countries, has been critical for the progress of strategic partnership between them.

A number of decision-makers have attended the forum including senior government officials and business representatives on both sides. The first forum was held in Chicago subsequent to which four other sessions have been held to date. The most recent one was in Riyadh in March 2016.

The Saudi-US Business Council was established in 1993 as a legal institution in the US. It is aimed at enhancing bilateral trade and investment relations between private sector companies in both countries. It also contributes toward organizing business opportunity forums.

Every year, several official trade delegations from various sectors are invited to visit Saudi Arabia in coordination with the related authorities to build more business opportunities and trade relations.