NEOM project draws interest at  Japan-Saudi conference in Tokyo

The Japan-Saudi Arabia Business Council meeting in Tokyo provided an excellent platform for investors from both countries to exchange ideas. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 24 October 2019

NEOM project draws interest at  Japan-Saudi conference in Tokyo

  • Kingdom’s medical devices manufacturer eyes advanced Japanese technology

TOKYO: Dozens of Saudi and Japanese businessmen met at the 18th Japan-Saudi Arabia Business Council in Tokyo on Thursday to discuss standing and new investment opportunities.

The conference, attended by representatives from the Japanese External Exchange Organization, Ministry of Trade and several top businesses, as well as the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, saw presentations promoting various sectors including real estate, medicine, entertainment, education and agriculture.

Projects like NEOM, the ambitious city project which Saudi Arabia is building in the Tabuk Province in the Kingdom’s northwest, grabbed a lot of attention.

The city, which the Kingdom will share with Egypt and Jordan near the Red Sea, will incorporate smart city technologies and function as a tourist destination.

“Saudi Arabia is a very important partner, both politically and economically, and we have to keep close contact with the Kingdom,” said Yasuhiro Sato, co-chairman of the Japanese side of the council. 

“Based on today’s meeting there are a lot of business opportunities that can be invested in.”

He revealed that Japanese business representatives “will soon be visiting Saudi Arabia” this November to further inspect projects.

The Kingdom’s Ambassador to Japan, Naif bin Marzouq Al-Fahadi, praised the excellent relations between the two nations, and built on Wednesday’s meeting between Saudi and Japanese ministers to highlight the increasing number of economic agreements signed between them.

“Today, we have many business opportunities because there is change in the economic infrastructure, and times have been changing as well,” Sato said.

“They (Japanese businesses) appreciate the efforts of Saudi business representatives in bringing leaders together to discuss how they can improve their businesses via mutual agreements,” Dr. Maha Al-Ateeki told Arab News on the sidelines of the conference.

Al-Ateeki, who is the first Saudi woman to invest in the manufacturing of medical devices in the Kingdom, said that she was looking at bringing Japanese technology back home.

“They have more advanced technology than us, and we are interested in taking it back to Saudi Arabia because, under Vision 2030, the Saudi leadership wants to localize technology,” she said, adding that she had set up a number of interviews while in Japan to help make this possible.

US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

Updated 55 min 28 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.