Saudi Arabia’s PIF names top business chiefs for Future Investment Initiative

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference held in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 26, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 29 August 2018

Saudi Arabia’s PIF names top business chiefs for Future Investment Initiative

  • Health care, urban futures and immersive tech among themes
  • Event will run from Oct. 23 to 25 in Riyadh

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has named a top team of global business chiefs that will help steer the agenda of the Kingdom’s Future Investment Initiative (FII).
The event debuted in the Kingdom last year and reflected the government’s economic reform agenda, showcasing developments such as NEOM and providing a platform for the country’s push into high-tech sectors, including robotics and artificial intelligence.
For many delegates, the highlight of last year’s gathering, nicknamed ‘Davos in the desert,’ was the apperance of a lifelike robot called "Sophia" who addressed the audience.
The second edition of the event will run from Oct. 23 to 25 in Riyadh and will focus on how investment can be used to fuel innovation and shape future economies.
Among the business leaders that will form the FII advisory board are Emaar Properties founder Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Blackstone boss Stephen Schwarzman and Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank Group.
Lubna Olayan, the CEO of Olayan Financing Company is the only Saudi Arabia-based business leader named on the board and one of three women that will help shape the event — alongside Arianna Huffington and Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments.
Joe Kaser, the CEO of Siemens represents the world of engineering while other board members include Mastercard chief Ajay Banga, Victor Chu, the chairman of First Eastern Investment Group, Tidjane Thiam, the CEO of Credit Suisse Group and Peter Thiel, co-founder of the Founders Fund
“Last year’s inaugural Future Investment Initiative made it clear that this is an essential stop on the global business calendar, particularly for anyone interested in a truly international perspective on innovations and forward thinking from all parts of the world,” said Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global. “Since then, the pace of change has only accelerated, making an even stronger case for how vital this unique gathering of leaders is for advancing our human potential. And I’m very much looking forward to working with the FII 2018 team to shape an agenda that not only showcases the best emerging ideas but helps us take meaningful action on a global scale.”
This year’s FII will include three summits looking at new health care frontiers, immersive technologies and the urban future.
Saudi Arabia is attracting increased interest from multinationals and investment groups following a string of reforms that form part of its Vision 2030 blueprint for economic diversification.
Investment companies are also establishing offices since the Tadawul opened itself to direct investment by foreign institutions in mid-2015.
That has attracted international names such as BlackRock, Citigroup, HSBC and Ashmore Group.


US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

Updated 8 min 43 sec ago

US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

  • Two years after starting to block appointments, the US will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body
  • Two of three members of Appellate Body exit and leave it unable to issue rulings

BRUSSELS: US disruption of the global economic order reaches a major milestone on Tuesday as the World Trade Organization (WTO) loses its ability to intervene in trade wars, threatening the future of the Geneva-based body.
Two years after starting to block appointments, the United States will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body, which acts as the supreme court for international trade, as two of three members exit and leave it unable to issue rulings.
Major trade disputes, including the US conflict with China and metal tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump, will not be resolved by the global trade arbiter.
Stephen Vaughn, who served as general counsel to the US Trade Representative during Trump’s first two years, said many disputes would be settled in future by negotiations.
Critics say this means a return to a post-war period of inconsistent settlements, problems the WTO’s creation in 1995 was designed to fix.
The EU ambassador to the WTO told counterparts in Geneva on Monday the Appellate Body’s paralysis risked creating a system of economic relations based on power rather than rules.
The crippling of dispute settlement comes as the WTO also struggles in its other major role of opening markets.
The WTO club of 164 has not produced any international accord since abandoning “Doha Round” negotiations in 2015.
Trade-restrictive measures among the G20 group of largest economies are at historic highs, compounded by Trump’s “America First” agenda and the trade war with China.
Phil Hogan, the European Union’s new trade commissioner, said on Friday the WTO was no longer fit for purpose and in dire need of reforms going beyond just fixing the appeals mechanism.
For developed countries, in particular, the WTO’s rules must change to take account of state-controlled enterprises.
In 2017, Japan brought together the United States and the European Union in a joint bid to set new global rules on state subsidies and forced technology transfers.
The US is also pushing to limit the ability of WTO members to grant themselves developing status, which for example gives them longer to implement WTO agreements.
Such “developing countries” include Singapore and Israel, but China is the clear focus.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters last week the United States wanted to end concessions given to then struggling economies that were no longer appropriate.
“We’ve been spoiling countries for a very, very long time, so naturally they’re pushing back as we try to change things,” he said.
The trouble with WTO reform is that changes require consensus to pass. That includes Chinese backing.
Beijing has published its own reform proposals with a string of grievances against US actions. Reform should resolve crucial issues threatening the WTO’s existence, while preserving the interests of developing countries.
Many observers believe the WTO faces a pivotal moment in mid-2020 when its trade ministers gather in a drive to push through a multinational deal — on cutting fishing subsidies.
“It’s not the WTO that will save the fish. It’s the fish that are going to save the WTO,” said one ambassador.