MBS, Trump and ‘The Art of the Deal’


MBS, Trump and ‘The Art of the Deal’

It might have been an unusually cold, rainy afternoon in Washington, but inside the White House a very warm meeting took place between President Donald J. Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 
For weeks, the US capital has been abuzz with speculation and opposing viewpoints on the heir to the Saudi throne’s visit. However, unlike the questionable policies of the Obama administration, President Trump has made it his mission to put “America First” — and seems to have quickly realized that this can’t be accomplished without the support of the US’ oldest Middle Eastern ally, Saudi Arabia.  
“A lot of (American) people are at work” because of Saudi Arabia’s business, Trump said during the meeting, adding that the Kingdom has finalized $12.5 billion in purchases of planes, missiles and frigates from US companies.
For his part, Crown Prince Mohammed reemphasized the 80-year alliance, and the “really deep” relationship Riyadh enjoys with the US, as he elaborated that the Saudis are considering $400 billion in US investment opportunities.
Yet, it is not only American jobs that Saudi Arabia is saving, but American lives as well. The other overriding takeaway of the Trump-MBS meeting was the combined commitment to combatting terrorism, be it on the ideological or financial level. 

The combination of a business-orientated US administration and a serious, dynamic Saudi leadership means that the climate could not be any better for investment. 

Faisal J. Abbas 

Of course, most US officials know very well that any effort against extremism requires the religious backing and military might of Riyadh. Mr. Trump sampled this first hand when he visited Riyadh — on his first foreign trip as US President — last May. 
At the time, Saudi Arabia brought in heads of states of more than 50 Arab and Muslim countries and also demonstrated the capabilities of its new Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC). President Trump would have also seen the first signs of the massive transformation the Kingdom is going through under its ambitious — and rapidly unfolding — Vision 2030 reform plan.
While the reform goals and pace have had their fair share of scrutiny, the one strategic aspect that nobody can deny is Vision 2030’s brilliance in turning a serious and imminent issue (falling oil prices, a growing population) into an attractive opportunity — thus creating a win/win situation for everyone involved. 
For instance, while the geopolitical realities of the Kingdom mean it needs to continue spending on enhancing its military, under the Vision international suppliers are required to produce some components locally in the Kingdom. The drive will create 40,000 Saudi jobs and localize 50 percent of military spending by 2030. 
Furthermore, the combination of a business-orientated US administration and a serious, dynamic Saudi leadership means that the climate could  not be any better for investment. 
MBS’ statement during the meeting that the original plan to tackle $200 billion of opportunities in the next two years ended up rising to $400 billion — with an overall implementation of 35 percent already achieved — only sets out to reemphasize the opportunity.  
Some pundits may mistakenly brush off such efforts as a PR stunt or an attempt to “buy love.” However, this couldn’t be any further away from the truth. After all, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) is not in the business of wasting money; quite the contrary, it aims to invest money where it feels there will be the highest returns needed to help diversify our economy away from oil. American start-ups and established businesses have a big chance of benefiting from this and should seize this strategic window of opportunity, for chances like these do not occur often.
Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas
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