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Editorial

Prince Mohammed’s visit puts KSA on world stage

THE success of the Far East visit of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is clear. It culminated in his important participation in the G20 summit in Hangzhou. The Kingdom’s profile at this gathering was arguably its highest ever since the world’s 20 most powerful economies agreed in 2008 to consult regularly on the direction of world affairs.
The key to this standing were the ambitions of Vision 2030. Prince Mohammed had already presented in person the Vision to Americans and French. Before the G20 meeting, it was at the core of his visits to China and Japan. On the sidelines of the summit itself, the Vision was at the center of an intensive round of meetings. Between Saturday and Monday, Prince Mohammed and his party held 15 top level meetings lasting a total of 40 hours.
He met Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Prime Minister Theresa May as well as Indian Premier Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The following day, the deputy crown prince had separate talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
This schedule worked out at a meeting on average every two-and-a-half hours. The intervals were taken up by reviews of the previous talks and preparation for the next. This week the Cabinet has hailed what was accomplished. There is no doubt that all major economies now fully understand the immense ambitions of Vision 2030. They have been appraised of the commercial opportunities. They will be thinking how their country’s companies can contribute and profit.
The next 14 years are going to transform Saudi Arabia. It is already the region’s most powerful economy. The vigorous growth of the non-oil sector will boost that dominance. Existing exports include household consumables and dairy products. But the Kingdom’s manufacturing base will be expanded. The focus will be on high technology ranging from automotive to defense industries. Chinese and Japanese companies in these spheres have already inked, or are due to seal such deals. Firms from other countries are bound to follow. With each new manufacturing base comes the need for local ancillary and support industries. Therefore the new jobs for well-educated young Saudis will not simply be created in the new enterprise itself. Goods and services to be needed to underpin these jobs. Everything from publicity to transport and logistics will be required. In other advanced manufacturing economies, on average three external jobs are created for every new manufacturing job.
In China and Japan, Prince Mohammed and his delegation signed 24 deals. These do not just cover industrial projects. There has also been a focus on the environment. China has major pollution challenges. It is seeking direct and indirect technologies to clean up its environmental act, including improving water resources. The Kingdom is already tackling its own environmental challenges. It has considerable experience in water management. With a reduced dependence on oil and the expansion of state-of-the-art urban public transport systems Saudis can look forward to a pollution-free environment.
There is a difference between Chinese and Japanese firms when it comes to the Kingdom. Chinese firms are still feeling their way here. Japanese businesses understand Saudi Arabia well. Their major trading houses have long had executives on the ground. They have researched and analyzed business opportunities. They have done their homework. Tokyo also appreciates what it can achieve commercially. Thus when Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe told Prince Mohammed how much he admired Saudi Vision 2030, he knew what he was talking about.
But there is an extra dimension to Vision 2030 that will have been understood at the G20 summit. The Kingdom is on track to become a regional manufacturing hub. It is already a trusted supplier of oil, not least to Japan and China. Saudi Arabia’s economic power will have a political impact. It will boost the Kingdom’s regional and international influence. Until the deputy crown prince’s crucially important Far East visit, the links with Beijing and Tokyo had been relatively low level and largely trade-based. Now it has been made clear that Saudi Arabia wants to play a full role in the world. Equally, in order to fulfill the ambitions of Vision 2030, it wants the world to play a full role in Saudi Arabia.

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