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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is willing to help improve relations between the US and China, a prominent minister from the Kingdom has insisted as he talked up the importance of trade with both nations.
Speaking at a panel discussion during the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan made it clear that the government seeks to build bridges in the international community and is committed to continuing to do so.
The comments came as officials from Beijing and Washington seek to dial down tensions between their respective nations, after a string of disagreements, including over trade and Taiwan.
Al-Jaadan was keen to show that Saudi Arabia is prepared to assist in any way, and said: “If there are opportunities that we can make the relationship between US and China better, we will. We enjoy a very good strategic relationship with the US. China is our largest trading partner. So, we need to maintain that relationship.”
Addressing economic issues, the minister expressed confidence that Saudi Arabia’s growth would remain resilient in the face of global challenges. He noted that the Kingdom had achieved a substantial non-oil gross domestic product expansion of 6.1 percent in the previous quarter, and the overall growth for 2023 is projected to reach 6 percent.
Regarding Saudi Arabia’s economic approach, Al-Jadaan explained, “As far as Saudi is concerned, we no longer concentrate on total GDP numbers because total GDP has two components: the oil GDP and the non-oil GDP. The whole Vision 2030 (initiative) is all about diversifying the economy outside the oil industry.”
He further emphasized: “If you look at the non-oil GDP, it is actually growing and is continuing to be very healthy. We are likely to see that it will continue to grow in the medium term.”
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is designed to reduce the Kingdom’s reliance on oil, which has been a cornerstone of its economy for decades. With national strategies focusing on tourism, logistics, and various industries, Saudi Arabia aims to boost the share of non-oil exports in non-oil GDP from 18.7 percent to 50 percent by 2030.
During the discussion, Al-Jadaan emphasized that Saudi Arabia’s economic growth would not only benefit its citizens but also have positive global implications, particularly for low-income countries.
“For countries to be able to help others, they need to be strong. And that has been our focus since the launch of Vision 2030. We tried and made sure that the Saudi economy is strong enough to support its own people and its economy, along with supporting others,” he said.
Al-Jadaan also called on multilateral institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, to prioritize assistance to low-income countries to boost their economies.
The Saudi finance minister further argued that economic fragmentation is a “ very serious challenge” and emphasized that imposing strict trade restrictions would be counterproductive.
“It does not really help with the current situation to have more restrictions on trade, which will add to inflation. I think there is a clearer realization now, that fragmentation is harmful to others that you want to harm, but it actually harms your own economy,” added Al-Jadaan.
Regarding the ongoing crisis in Gaza, Al-Jadaan stressed the importance of respecting international laws and the need for de-escalation to restore peace in the region.
“Our sympathy goes to those who are suffering, civilian casualties wherever they are. International laws need to be respected, and without international law being respected, the world will be in chaos. We need to collaborate to bring calm,” said Al-Jadaan.
In the panel discussion, Khalifa Al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s minister of finance and national economy, highlighted that Gulf countries have an upper hand in terms of global growth prospects. He pointed out that all nations in the region are actively pursuing economic diversification, which positions them favorably on the global stage.
Al-Khalifa noted that the annual GDP of Gulf Cooperation Council countries has exceeded $2.3 trillion and is projected to reach $3 trillion by 2030 and $6 trillion by 2050.
“The great thing about economies in the Gulf countries is that today we are seeing a development path that is rapidly moving toward diversification across all of the economies in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia has made huge strides in that regard. In Bahrain, 83 percent of our GDP is non-oil GDP,” the minister said.
Al-Khalifa also pointed out that GCC countries are insulated from global economic headwinds due to the policies they have already taken to diversify their economies away from oil.
On her part, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, urged countries to “relentlessly pursue reforms that bring strength in a more uncertain world we live in.”
She also urged world countries to stay united instead of being fragmented.
Georgieva emphasized that international cooperation in a divided world is essential, to combat a phase of slow global growth that would persist for years along with high interest rates.
“Inflation is still high and that requires interest rates to remain high, throwing more cold water on growth. Cooperation is truly a matter of the highest priority,” she emphasized, adding, “We have not done our job properly to secure opportunities for people on the losing side.”
Mehmet Şimşek, Turkiye’s minister of finance said that de-escalation of war is very much necessary, as it will create long-term implications in the region.
“Our heart goes to those innocent people who are suffering. We are doing our best to de-escalate and put an end to this violence. The direct implications are limited, but we are more worried about long-term implications,” said Şimşek.
He added: “I think we all have to work very hard to contain, and de-escalate. The long-term solution is really a peaceful coexistence. Our region has seen enough suffering and bloodshed. It is time to rebuild together.”
The seventh edition of the FII is being held under the theme “The New Compass,” where attendees are engaging in discussions on crucial topics related to climate change, the economy, and technology.
This year’s conference also focuses on the role of governments and the transformative potential of technology, education, and healthcare in shaping a more prosperous future.
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