UK-GCC trade deal could be finished in a year: Minister

UK-GCC trade deal could be finished in a year: Minister
Anne Marie Trevelyan is confident a trade deal can be agreed with 18 months at the most (AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2022

UK-GCC trade deal could be finished in a year: Minister

UK-GCC trade deal could be finished in a year: Minister

RIYADH: UK trade talks with the Gulf countries would be concluded in 12 to 18 months, Britain’s Minister of International Trade Anne Marie Trevelyan has revealed. 

The UK has started talks on a free trade agreement with six Gulf countries in the latest round of negotiations aimed at strengthening its relations outside the EU after its exit.

“It is difficult to determine the time period for discussing free trade agreements, but we believe a period of one to one and a half years is a realistic time period and we have identified it as a starting area,” she told Al Arabiya.

The Gulf Cooperation Council visions work to help the business sector grow, use digital tools to help emerging companies find new markets, and to diversify the economy away from oil and gas in the long term, Trevelyan said.

“We want to make sure that with the removal of obstacles to food, beverages and other goods, we will see companies in both directions benefit,” she said. 

She added: “It is also important to support the flow of investments in both directions, and we want to see the investment flowing between our countries grow more so that companies in UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain to work closely together to the fullest extent, in order to be able to achieve the visions, and it was really exciting to see the developments during my visit, and that these opportunities for companies not only for our generation, but for future generations.”

UK-US trade agreement

As well as countries in the Gulf, the UK is also in talks with the US, pending President Joe Biden administration's readiness to negotiate a federal trade agreement, Trevelyan said.

“I and a number of ministers are working with a number of US states on topics such as mutual recognition of qualifications and governor-controlled policies to help our companies increase trade and remove some of the existing barriers,” she said.

Trevelyan added: “We look forward to a federal agreement, but President Biden wanted to focus his efforts internally in his first year, and we respect that decision.”

“I'm working with my counterparts to remove barriers to market entry, and we have a resolution on the steel fees and a resolution on the fees related to the Boeing-Airbus dispute. We have done a lot and are waiting for the Biden administration to be ready to begin the federal agreement,” she said.


Saudi Arabia sees 54% jumps in investment licenses to 4,358 in 2022  

Saudi Arabia sees 54% jumps in investment licenses to 4,358 in 2022  
Updated 22 sec ago

Saudi Arabia sees 54% jumps in investment licenses to 4,358 in 2022  

Saudi Arabia sees 54% jumps in investment licenses to 4,358 in 2022  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia issued 4,358 investment licenses in 2022, up 53.9 percent compared to 2021, as the Kingdom steadily emerges as an investment destination in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030.  

According to a monthly report from the Kingdom’s Ministry of Investment, the number of licenses approved in the fourth quarter of 2022, excluding those granted under the “Tasattur” anti-concealment campaign, rose 30.7 percent year-on-year to 1,276. 

“This increase reflects the growing position of Saudi Arabia as an attractive investment destination with competitive advantages including a stable and business-friendly investment environment,” said MISA in the report. 

The ministry further revealed that the government’s total revenues increased to SR283.8 billion ($75.64 billion) in the fourth quarter of 2022, recording 5.4 percent growth over the same period in 2021. 

MISA expects that figure to reach SR1.23 trillion in 2022, up by 27.8 percent on an annual basis. 

The government also managed to reduce its expenditures by 1.8 percent to SR331.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022 on an annual basis, the MISA data revealed.  

However, it expects government expenditures to reach about SR1.13 trillion in 2022, up by 9 percent compared to 2021. 

Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, known as Tadawul All Share Index, showed a decrease of 7.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022 on an annual basis, while the parallel market Nomu registered a decrease of 25.2 percent during the same period. 

The MISA report attributed the decrease in these indexes to global economic uncertainties and fluctuations in oil prices. 

Saudi Arabia’s inflation rate also rose to 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021. 

The MISA report attributed the rise in inflation rate to a number of factors including the increase in prices of housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels by 5.6 percent, and food and beverages by 4.0 percent. 

The Kingdom’s Real Estate Price Index increased by 1.6 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2022, primarily driven by the increase in the prices of residential real estate prices by 2.6 percent. 

According to the report, the Real Estate Price Index for the full year 2022 showed an increase of 1.1 percent on an annual basis.


Saudi Arabia’s regional maritime transshipment share hits 32% in boost for Vision 2030 goals: Minister 

Saudi Arabia’s regional maritime transshipment share hits 32% in boost for Vision 2030 goals: Minister 
Updated 28 min 53 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s regional maritime transshipment share hits 32% in boost for Vision 2030 goals: Minister 

Saudi Arabia’s regional maritime transshipment share hits 32% in boost for Vision 2030 goals: Minister 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s share of transshipment operations in the region has almost tripled in three years, according to the Kingdom’s Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser. 

The level rose to 32 percent in 2022, up from 12 percent three years prior, the minister revealed.

The Kingdom is aiming for a 50 percent regional share of transshipment - the act of off-loading a container from one ship and loading it onto another ship to its final destination – by the end of the decade as part of its Vision 2030 goals.

It also intends to have the largest share of transit maritime trade in the Red Sea, drawing in global transshipment operations to Saudi ports. 

“Seventeen international maritime lines were launched in the Kingdom, which increased the interconnection of ports and increased the process of exports, imports, and transportation through the Kingdom to other countries,” Al-Jasser told Asharq on the sidelines of the LEAP conference taking place in Riyadh. 

The Ministry also initiated the Unified Logistics Window on Monday to grant access to operational services in numerous languages across multiple entities from the country’s logistics ecosystem. 

Al-Jasser added that the platform will facilitate the beneficiary and improve the customer experience.  

While it currently comprises 70 transportation system services, the platform aspires to increase to 450 automated services in 2025. 

“What we are currently working on is re-engineering, facilitating, and unifying these services. The platform is intended for individuals, the business sector, and government agencies that are integrated with the transportation system,” added the minister.  

As for the Kingdom’s railway sector, the minister underlined that the expansion plans of the railways in the near future will focus on achieving connectivity both locally and in the region.  

The sectoral rail strategy is set to add around 8,000 km to the current rail network, which is  currently 5,500 km, according to Al-Jasser's statements to Asharq. 

Another main concern of this strategy is Saudi Arabia’s rail transport of goods – the total tons transported on trains in 2022 is equivalent to the displacement of almost two million trucks from the Kingdom’s roads. 


Technology, regulatory and cost factors to drive green transportation developments, say IEAA conference panelists

Technology, regulatory and cost factors to drive green transportation developments, say IEAA conference panelists
Updated 40 min 6 sec ago

Technology, regulatory and cost factors to drive green transportation developments, say IEAA conference panelists

Technology, regulatory and cost factors to drive green transportation developments, say IEAA conference panelists

RIYADH: The transport sector's dependency on fossil fuel has dropped by just 3 percent since the 1970s, Saudi Aramco's Transport Chief Technologist Amer Amer said as he emphasized the need to keep developing green fuels.

Speaking on the third day of the International Association for Energy Economics conference in Riyadh, Amer insisted there needs to be more effort put into technology development to ensure significant greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Amer said: “Improving the technology, not only on the engine side but also on reducing the carbon intensity of fuels that go into these vehicles, will result in an immediate reduction in greenhouse gasses. 

“Also, Saudi Aramco is working on direct air capture to bring the cost of this technology to less than $100 per tonne of CO2.”

His comments came during a panel session focused on the technology and regulatory options needed to deliver transport services, while meeting the challenges of resource use, emissions, cost, and impact on the urban environment.

Geetam Tiwari, professor of civil engineering, transportation research, and injury prevention program at IIT Delhi, used her appearance on the panel to warn that when creating transport systems, investing or relying only on technology innovation may not be the answer. 

“Many innovations happen because of setting targets by governments, regulations are required,” she said.

Tiwari used the example of electric buses to highlight the need for a pragmatic approach in this area.

“Instead of straight away emphasizing on a 100 per cent conversion to electric, we have to go slowly and understand all the barriers and problems that we are going to face,” she said. 

Gerardo Rabinovich, the previous president of the Latin American Association of Energy Economics used his remarks to warn about the high entry costs for consumers into green transportation.

“We have economic barriers already for the electric vehicle because the price of an electric vehicle for the people is 50 per cent more than the regular vehicle, and that needs fiscal incentive and maybe subsidies,” he said.

Andreas W. Schäfer, chair of energy and transport at the University College London Energy Institute, insisted that renewable technologies “must be market ready and deployable at scale by 2030.”

He warned against seeing liquid hydrogen – which is used in rocket fuel – as a potential resource in this area, as it would require major infrastructure transformation to make it viable. 

Topics being tackled at the forum, which runs from Feb. 4 to 9, including renewable energy opportunities and challenges, challenges facing the power sector in the MENA region, and the impact of oil price volatility on supply and investment.

The IAEE is a global non-profit organization formed in the US in 1977 and works to promote dialogue and the exchange of ideas around the economic analysis of energy resources.


COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber says he is listening, ready to engage

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber says he is listening, ready to engage
Updated 07 February 2023

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber says he is listening, ready to engage

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber says he is listening, ready to engage

BENGALURU: The UAE climate envoy and designated COP28 president said on Tuesday his country, which is due to host the summit later this year, was approaching the task with humility, responsibility and urgency. 

"It is not a conflict of interest. It is in our common interest to have the energy industry working alongside everyone on the solutions the world needs," Sultan al-Jaber, who is also head of the state oil giant ADNOC, said at the India Energy Week conference. "The UAE COP presidency is listening and ready to engage." 

Jaber's appointment to lead the climate summit this year fuelled activists' worries that big industry was hijacking the world's response to the global warming crisis. 

The UAE, a major OPEC oil exporter, will be the second Arab state to host the climate conference after Egypt in 2022. 

The UAE and other Gulf energy producers have called for a realistic energy transition in which hydrocarbons would keep a role in energy security while making commitments to decarbonization. 

"We cannot unplug the current energy system before we have built the new one," said Jaber, who was the founding CEO of Abu Dhabi renewable energy firm Masdar before becoming ADNOC chief.

"We must minimize their carbon footprint, only invest in the least carbon-intensive barrels and continue to reduce their intensity," he added. 

Jaber also said developing nations had seen little justice so far when it comes to energy transition and pointed to capital needed to fully operationalize the loss and damage fund approved in COP27. 

The deal to create the fund was hailed as a breakthrough for developing country negotiators at the Egypt summit last year but climate activists have since complained that the fund remains empty of cash. 

The Nov. 20-Dec. 12 COP28 will be the first global stocktake since the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015. 

On Tuesday, Jaber said that eliminating energy poverty was essential alongside keeping the goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius alive. 

 

 


Tech firm Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

Tech firm Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion
Updated 07 February 2023

Tech firm Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

Tech firm Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

CAIRO: US-headquartered customer relations management platform Gameball secured $3.5 million in a seed funding round to fuel its Saudi operations as well as expand to European countries. 

Founded in 2020, Gamball provides an all-in-one customer intelligence and marketing CRM platform for consumer brands to analyze customer behavior, leverage first-party data, identify monetization opportunities, and execute retention strategies. 

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Ahmed Khairy, CEO of Gameball, said that the company plans to utilize its funding to expand sales and partnerships as well as customer support activities in the Kingdom. 

“We are planning to expand our commercial and customer support activities in the Kingdom. Our model is that we build a network of channel partners in each country in which we operate. This allows us to scale fast while benefiting from these partners who have local market knowledge and expertise,” Khairy added. 

The company witnessed organic growth since its inception and received positive feedback from large and small businesses using their platform to leverage customer retention with Gameball customers witnessing a three times increase in purchase frequency. 

“Saudi Arabia has powered our growth and as brands leverage insights from digital platforms, they are turning to us,” he added. 

Since its inception, Gameball served over 7,000 businesses, 20 million consumers, and processes more than $260 million worth of transactions every month. 

“With Gameball, it’s easy for brands to kick-start their journey on our platform. We anticipate at least 50 big retailers signing up this year. This will complement our diverse range of clients from around the world,” Khairy stated. 

Khairy explained that the business is not resource intensive and will continue to hire based on its growth and client demand as he plans to hire experts in business development and account management to be based in their office in Riyadh.  

Gameball has targeted Germany and the UK as part of its international expansion while investing in commercializing its product. 

“While we’ve secured funding, we want to be prudent about how we spend our capital. Right away, we’ll be hiring Country Managers in each of those countries and as our business scales, we’ll recruit for additional positions,” Khairy told Arab News.