Britain expects ‘very significant’ week for Brexit talks as clock ticks down

Britain expects ‘very significant’ week for Brexit talks as clock ticks down
EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier passes a Police officer as he walks to a conference centre in Westminster in London, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 29 November 2020

Britain expects ‘very significant’ week for Brexit talks as clock ticks down

Britain expects ‘very significant’ week for Brexit talks as clock ticks down
  • Despite missing several self-imposed deadlines, the negotiations have failed to bridge differences on competition policy and the distribution of fishing rights
  • Britain’s transitional EU exit agreement expires on Dec. 31, and Britain says it will not seek any extension

LONDON: Britain and the European Union are heading into a “very significant” week, British foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday, as talks over a trade deal enter their final days with serious differences yet to be resolved.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters in London that “works continue, even on Sunday” on his way to a negotiating session, as both sides look for a deal to prevent disruption to almost $1 trillion of trade at the end of December.
“This is a very significant week, the last real major week, subject to any further postponement... we’re down to really two basic issues,” Raab told the BBC.
Despite missing several self-imposed deadlines, the negotiations have failed to bridge differences on competition policy and the distribution of fishing rights.
But Britain’s transitional EU exit agreement — during which the bloc’s rules continue to apply — expires on Dec. 31, and Britain says it will not seek any extension. A deal would have to be ratified by both sides, leaving little time for new delay.
“The bottom line is... in the ordinary course of things we need to get a deal done over the next week or maybe another couple of days beyond that,” Raab told Times Radio in a separate interview.
Earlier, he had signalled some progress on the ‘level playing field’ provisions which look to ensure fair competition between Britain and the EU, and said fishing remained the most difficult issue to solve.
Despite accounting for 0.1% of the British economy, fishing rights have become a totemic issue for both sides. Britain has so far rejected EU proposals and remains adamant that as an independent nation it must have full control of its waters.
“The EU have just got to recognize the point of principle here,” Raab told Times Radio.


American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties

American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties
Updated 11 min 20 sec ago

American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties

American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties
  • New US leader may adopt more pragmatic approach, but trade relations will remain strong

JEDDAH: While some analysts are predicting a change in Saudi-US relations following Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, the new chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said he believes the change in the White House will not have any significant impact on relations between the two allies.

“The US has been a partner of Saudi Arabia since the 1940s and I think that goes very deep. We think that the Biden administration and presidential election victory will usher in new foreign policy changes. That’s a given when there’s any change in administration and especially in party,” Tarik Solomon, chairman of AmChamKSA, told Arab News.

AmCham recently launched its first chamber in Saudi Arabia. It is part of the United States Chamber of Commerce umbrella that has hundreds of branches around the world. In the region, there are already branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as in Egypt and Lebanon.

The US and Saudi Arabia enjoy a robust economic relationship. According to the US Department of State, the US is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trading partner, while Saudi Arabia is one of the US’ largest trading partners in the Middle East and its third-leading source of imported oil.

Solomon said he expects a different communication style when it comes to the US-Saudi relationship going forward. “We will likely see a return to standard official communication procedures under Biden, rather than the decree by tweet policy of Trump,” he said.

However, the US-Saudi relationship is longstanding and is characterized by its pragmatism, Solomon said.

“Biden may request some concessions and will probably put stronger conditions on support. However, when you look at trade and investment, we’re committed to working tirelessly to elevate this relationship,” he added.

According to Solomon, AmCham’s aim is to strive for increased cooperation between the two countries in terms of trade and investment, to diversify the Saudi economy away from a dependence on hydrocarbons and to help raise the Kingdom’s profile in the US.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia was the US’ 27th-largest goods and service market, with a total value of $39 billion, focusing on military, energy, aluminum, fertilizers and petrochemicals.

“Those are extremely high figures when you look at, for example, military vehicles — that’s $2 billion on its own,” said Solomon. “There’s a lot of trade going on between the KSA and US and there’s a lot of room for growth.”

However, the chairman hopes to push more US companies into new sectors that have high potential and are pillars of the Saudi government’s Visions 2030 goals. Of the promising investment sectors in the Kingdom, Solomon highlighted manufacturing, tourism, entertainment, sports and technology.

“What we are looking at right now is the manufacturing sector. This is where work towards localizing renewable energy and industrial equipment is growing. We’re looking at sports, tourism and leisure,” said Solomon.

In addition to manufacturing, the technology sector is another promising industry with high potential, but Solomon said that there is a slight lag in US investment in technology and the digital economy, which he wants to push forward while it remains a greenfield space in the country, especially as the government increases investment in the sector.

Solomon highlighted the significance of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the US under the Trump Administration. “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed a significant amount of memorandums of understanding between the Saudi Arabian government and US entities, and some of those included Aramco and SABIC. We see this as an opening to new opportunities for US investment in a market that was traditionally heavily protected.”

Solomon believes that strategic dialogue in the trade and investment field will be the key to success and enhancing investment opportunities between the two countries.

“We need to remember what kind of a friend Saudi Arabia is and that they’ve always been there for us. We’ve always had a strong relationship,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has choices. Our goal is to be its first choice as a trusted partner.”