The Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) hosted on Tuesday, January 28, the Saudi-French Business Forum, which attracted around 200 companies from France and Saudi Arabia.
Attendees of the forum included CSC Chairperson Dr. Sami Al Abeedi, Acting Secretary General Hussain Al Abdulkader, Governor of the General Authority for Foreign Trade Abdulrahman Al Harbi, and French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Francois Gouyette.
Mr. Al Harbi commended during his address the continued growing relations between Saudi Arabia and France on the economic front, which led France to become KSA’s ninth largest trade partner, with trade valued at USD 10.4 billion in 2018. He also noted that French investments in the Kingdom grew 140% in 2019 compared to 2018, reaching USD 23.8 billion with a total of 259 businesses, making France the third largest investor in KSA.
The Governor added that the undergoing reforms in Saudi Arabia made it come out on top, globally, in regards to economic reforms, namely, ease of doing business (World Bank’s Doing Business 2020). He highlighted the numerous law changes concerning franchising, e-commerce, and starting businesses – the latter leaping 103 places from 141 to 38. He attributed these developments to the current reforms, which entail unifying efforts of the government sector, fostering public-private-partnerships and international partnerships, and empowering women across all areas.
Al Harbi pointed to the new promising sectors in the Kingdom, including petrochemicals, tourism, entertainment, communications, e-commerce, mining and privatization, adding that he wishes for the forum to help in creating more Saudi-French partnerships and transferring relevant technologies and expertise.
For his part, Dr. Al Abidi praised the distinguished participants of the forum, noting that such attendance reflects mutual keenness to elevate bilateral relations between the two friendly countries whose trade was valued at approximately SAR 39.1 billion. The CSC Chairperson stated that the forum seeks to create more strategic partnerships across various fields, such as manufacturing, renewable energy, healthcare, tourism, and agriculture – praising the efforts of the Saudi-French Business Council in this regard.
Co-chair of the Saudi-French Business Council Dr. Mohammed bin Laden noted that the French delegation’s visit coincides with significant economic and social shifts in the Kingdom due to the ambitious Saudi Vision 2030, which aims at diversifying the country’s economic base and lessening its oil reliance, while simultaneously utilizing its geographic location as a logistic hub connecting three continents. In addition to the focus on artificial intelligence and cultural and social openness.
Dr. Bin Laden noted that French companies have great opportunities to explore in light of the Saudi Vision 2030, namely in technological innovation, aviation, transportation, environment, energy efficiency, healthcare, agriculture, and foodstuffs. He praised the partnership with the French employers’ federation (MEDEF) and the biennial Saudi-French Business Forum for their role in fostering bilateral relations.
MEDEF President and co-chair of the joint council Frederic Sanchez mentioned during his address that the French delegation included representatives of 60 companies from various fields, including finance, constructions, hospitality, and infrastructure, among others. Noting that said companies aim to transfer their expertise to the Saudi market in line with the Saudi Vision 2030. He added that MEDEF, which represents around 75% of French companies, aims towards sustained long-term partnerships with its Saudi counterparts, in cooperation with CSC and the Saudi-French Business Council. Mr. Sanchez added that France seeks to partake in the economic development process in the Kingdom, namely in regards to fostering job creation and local content.
French Ambassador Francois Gouyette conveyed French businesses’ interest in cooperating with their Saudi counterparts and transferring their expertise in fields such as technology, innovation and training to the Saudi market, noting that Saudi Arabia is undergoing significant changes, economically and socially. He noted that such reforms led to doubling French investments in the Kingdom due to facilitations in relevant procedures, hoping that more investors would follow suit in the future.
The meeting included an open session with participation of the SMEs Authority (Monsha’at) and the National Center for Privatization, who shed light on their efforts in fostering their respective sectors. In addition to two workshops, entitled “Saudi Arabia: Global Logistics Hub” and “Localizing Industries” whose participants included Saudi Customs, Ministry of Economy & Planning, MODON, and SIDF.