As part of the Saudi government’s tireless efforts to strengthen its international economic ties, Riyadh hosted the first Saudi Arabia-CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Summit on Nov. 16.
The summit aimed to underscore the Kingdom’s economic ties with the CARICOM bloc and deliberate the efforts that will fortify partnerships and open new avenues for collaboration between the largest economy in the MENA region and the Caribbean.
The CARICOM is a grouping of 20 countries —15 member states and five associate members throughout the Americas and Atlantic Ocean — that was formed on July 4, 1973.
The combined population of the bloc is about 16 million, 60 percent of whom are under the age of 30.
According to the GCC-STAT Center, the Caribbean community’s economy is mainly commercial, focusing on the services sector with a total size of $112 billion in 2022. Per capita income varies between $32,216 in the Bahamas and $1,673 in Haiti, with an average per capita income in the group of about $5,785.
Although the member states of the CARICOM are characterized by trade openness, the size of the bloc’s international trade remains modest due to the small size of its economies.
I believe that the Kingdom does not discriminate in international relationships between small and large economic blocs in light of Vision 2030’s goals and objectives. The CARICOM is the oldest integration bloc in the developing world and has a strategic economic vision that could support the Kingdom’s own in a number of areas such as logistics, food security, tourism and climate change.
Total international imports from the bloc amounted to about $27 billion and total exports do not exceed $19.6 billion.
The CARICOM economies include agriculture and mining, as well as a strong tourism sector and financial services.
A joint statement was released at the end of the Saudi Arabia-CARICOM Summit pledging to explore cooperation on specific areas of common interest between both sides, namely: Education, health, maritime cooperation, connectivity, logistics, food and energy security, tourism and other possible areas of cooperation.
The two sides also confirmed their strong and genuine desire to strengthen ties at the multilateral and bilateral levels, where sustainable business opportunities and improved trade and investment flows can be pursued, with special emphasis on sustainable infrastructure, renewables, trade, tourism and logistics.
Finally, the joint statement focused on enhancing public-private partnerships and business-to-business relations between the two sides, by using available and new physical and online platforms, trade missions, exhibitions, seminars, conferences and dialogue.
One would ask, why Saudi Arabia, being the largest economy in the Arabian Peninsula, would consider strengthening its economic ties with a small economic bloc such as the CARICOM?
The answer to this question is quite simple, because I believe that the Kingdom does not discriminate in international relationships between small and large economic blocs in light of Vision 2030’s goals and objectives. The CARICOM is the oldest integration bloc in the developing world and has a strategic economic vision that could support the Kingdom’s own in a number of areas such as logistics, food security, tourism and climate change.
• Talat Zaki Hafiz is an economist and financial analyst. Twitter: @TalatHafiz