RIYADH: It was in February 1932 that Saudi Arabia and Italy signed a Treaty of Friendship that marked the origin of the bilateral relationship between the two countries — and 90 years on the partnership is more fruitful than ever.
In 2021, the trade exchange between Saudi Arabia and Italy exceeded $8 billion, higher than the pre-pandemic period, showing an accelerating economic relationship between the two countries.
Italy is currently the seventh biggest exporter to Saudi Arabia and the second within the EU, while the Kingdom is Italy’s 21st highest exporter, supplying about 9 percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil imports.
As Saudi Arabia leapfrogs in the business sector through economic diversification, a strong strategic partner like Italy could also reap benefits.
In line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is now steadily diversifying its economy, which has been dependent on oil for several decades. The Kingdom now eyes becoming one of the world’s top tourist destinations by 2030, along with accelerating the flow of foreign direct investments to the nation.
With several regulatory reforms and by creating a business-friendly environment, Saudi Arabia is attracting foreign companies to the Kingdom.
These firms are now enjoying all the benefits, guarantees, support and incentives offered to Saudi entities, and the government even allows full foreign ownership in most industries.
Until now, Italy’s capital expenditure in Saudi Arabia focused mainly on manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade, but these regulatory reforms could help Italian entrepreneurs to explore more sectors in the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian firms are also establishing a foothold in Italy, with SABIC being the most prominent one operating in the European nation.
Other notable firms from the Kingdom operating in Italy include Saudi Arabian Airlines in the logistics and storage sectors and Gulf Infonet in the telecommunications sector.
Earlier in June, in an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Italian-Saudi Joint Commission, Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s then-foreign minister, stressed the importance of consolidating his country’s historic relations with the Kingdom.
Di Maio said: “Italy was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the early 1930s and 2022 marks a very important anniversary in our longstanding friendship.”
Di Maio further noted that high-tech Italian companies could contribute to Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification journey, especially in the fields of sustainability and energy transition.
On the sidelines of the event, the Saudi Space Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to collaborate on projects of common interest in Earth observation, technology and communication in deep space, scientific missions and human exploration programs, as well as joint efforts in satellites and training.
“ASI and SSC agree to cooperate through the exchange of information and scientific data, the joint organization of seminars and workshops and the development of joint projects and research activities,” a spokesman for ASI told Arab News.
Saudi Arabia and Italy already have strong bilateral exchanges on energy, innovation, machinery and space. As the countries celebrate the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations, these ties could be further extended to other sectors like culture and tourism.