8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington

8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington
A meeting of the Saudi-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council in 2018. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 June 2024
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8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington

8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington
  • Council tackles bilateral trade and investment issues, promotes market access

RIYADH: The eighth meeting of the Saudi-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council in the United States kicked off on Sunday in Washington DC.
The Saudi delegation was led by the General Authority of Foreign Trade (GAFT), and it included 20 government entities.
The council's goal is to monitor trade and investment relations in order to identify opportunities for expansion, work on removing trade and investment barriers, improve a promising trade and investment environment, and foster economic development between the two countries.
The council tackles bilateral trade and investment issues, promotes market access, protects and enforces intellectual property rights, manages data and e-commerce, builds capacity, and reviews trade and investment policies.
The Saudi delegation is scheduled to attend several meetings and workshops on the sidelines of the meeting, which will last until Friday.
These include a workshop titled "Trade Opportunities between the Middle East and the United States," which will be attended by US ambassadors in Gulf countries, and the opening session of the Select USA Investment Summit, which will be chaired by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
The delegation will also participate in the fifth GCC-US Trade and Investment Dialogue Forum, a panel discussion titled "Saudi Investment in Technology," the US-Saudi Forum titled "Investing in Our Shared Future," the GCC-US Roundtable, and the Saudi-US Roundtable, all of which will include private sector participation from both sides.
The trade volume between Saudi Arabia and the US in 2023 was approximately $34 billion, with mineral products and fertilizers being the most significant Saudi exports to the US, while machinery, mechanical appliances and spare parts, and automobiles and spare parts were the top US imports.


KAUST announces research to enhance Kingdom’s 6G tech ambitions

KAUST announces research to enhance Kingdom’s 6G tech ambitions
Updated 52 min 44 sec ago
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KAUST announces research to enhance Kingdom’s 6G tech ambitions

KAUST announces research to enhance Kingdom’s 6G tech ambitions
  • KAUST said the collaboration involves the company’s continuing to fund two communications programs at the university
  • First program focuses on Free-Space Optical communications, while the second revolves around developing Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces RIS

RIYADH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has announced the beginning of a new research era to develop communication technologies from 5G to 6G in collaboration with a foreign company.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that telecommunications experts expect that by 2025, there will be more than 50 billion devices connected to the internet, including devices that control city power grids and devices used for browsing social media and platforms.

KAUST said that this collaboration involves the company’s continuing to fund two communications programs at the university.

The first program focuses on Free-Space Optical communications, while the second revolves around developing Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces RIS. Both technologies have been identified by the industry sector as essential for the development of 5G and 6G communication structures.

FSO communications use lasers to transmit signals through outer space, air, to a wireless detector. The signal attenuation rate increases with higher frequency signals, and 6G has the highest frequency so far (at least 100 gigahertz). This technology is used to measure the effects of weather on signal transmission in order to build a comprehensive database of weather conditions in the Kingdom to address the causes of communication outages, the frequency of occurrences, and their duration. With this information, the company and other companies can strategically place their stations and deploy backup systems in case of failure.

Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces provide another solution to signal loss, as urban buildings often contain essential reception stations on their rooftops. RIS are made up of thousands of cells, each typically consisting of layers of metal, insulators, and semiconductors, and are expected to greatly contribute to enabling 6G technology access.

According to SPA, KAUST contributes to enhancing the Kingdom’s leadership in developing and adopting 6G communication technologies, attracting global companies to invest in infrastructure and scientists to assess their research by testing optical communication technologies in space and new reconfigurable smart surfaces, and collecting an unprecedented amount of data on weather conditions and communication performance in the Kingdom.


NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees

NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees
Updated 15 July 2024
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NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees

NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees
  • Salman Al-Wahib warns that summer is an especially dangerous time because rising temperatures and humidity levels provide conditions for the pests to thrive and contribute to the spread of bacteria and plant mold

RIYADH: Citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia are no strangers to extreme heat conditions, and over the years they have learned to adapt. But as temperatures rise, so do the bugs. And sometimes the problem cannot simply be swatted away.

Tephriditae fruit flies, such as the Mediterranean fruit fly and the olive fruit fly, as well as insects such as the red palm weevil, are among the biggest antagonizing forces against the nation’s plant and fruit supply.

According to research by Topian, NEOM’s food company, the SR9.2 billion ($2.4 billion) date industry loses an average of SR1 billion annually in date palms and associated forgone revenues because of red palm weevil infestations.

Saudi farmers preserve date crops using a technique called ‘sleeving,’ which involves covering the fruit to protect it from pests, weather conditions and other forms of contamination. (AN photo)

At the launch of the Saudi Agrifood Tech Alliance in early July in Riyadh, Andrew Yip, head of innovation and ecosystem activation at Topian, revealed the development of new technology designed to target the red palm weevils threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees.

In partnership with AK-Sens, a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology start-up, Topian plans to commercialize and scale optical fiber sensing technology for early-stage detection of the insect in thousands of trees in under an hour, Yip said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In partnership with AK-Sens, a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology startup, Topian is developing a new technology designed to target the red palm weevils threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees.

• The project plans to commercialize and scale optical fiber sensing technology for early-stage detection of the insect in thousands of trees in under an hour.

• It has the potential to increase overall efficiency and sustainability in the agrifood sector and farms nationwide.

Following initial testing with only a handful of trees in Tabuk, the team’s latest trial at NEOM involved a thousand trees and achieved 96.3 percent accuracy with a two thirds reduction of set-up time from previous trials.

Saudi farmers preserve date crops using a technique called ‘sleeving,’ which involves covering the fruit to protect it from pests, weather conditions and other forms of contamination. (Supplied)

While the sensing technology has been so far exclusive to palm trees and red palm weevils, it has the potential to increase overall efficiency and sustainability in the agrifood sector and farms nationwide.

To better understand the health risks associated with consuming pest-infested fruits and vegetables, Arab News spoke to Dr. Basem Al-Bahrani, the emergency medicine consultant at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare and a member of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.

He said: “Eating vegetables and fruits is an essential part of a healthy diet, but there are health risks associated with eating them if they are contaminated or not washed properly. These risks may include a variety of issues that may affect individuals in different ways.”

Saudi farmers preserve date crops using a technique called ‘sleeving,’ which involves covering the fruit to protect it from pests, weather conditions and other forms of contamination. (AN photo)

Food poisoning as a result of salmonella, Escherichia coli (or E. coli), or listeria bacteria is among the most common issues and its symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, and a fever, Al-Bahrani explained.

Other possible health risks are parasitic infections that at their best present the same as food poisoning and at their worst may cause weight loss and anemia. Finally, ingesting pesticide remnants could lead to hormonal imbalances, nervous system disorders, and increased risk of cancer.

NUMBER

$2.4bn

According to research by Topian, NEOM’s food company, the SR9.2 billion ($2.4 billion) date industry loses an average of SR1 billion annually in date palms and associated forgone revenues because of red palm weevil infestations.

Arab News also spoke to Salman Al-Wahib, a Saudi Advanced Business Co. Holding retiree turned farmer and owner of a plant tissue culture laboratory and nursery for outdoor and indoor plants, with 11 years of experience in the field.

He said that fruit pests are a problem that “requires great care from those responsible, farmers, and consumers.” Al-Wahib also warns that summer is an especially dangerous time because rising temperatures and humidity levels provide conditions for the pests to thrive and contribute to the spread of bacteria and plant mold.

He explained that the problem begins, expectedly, at the farming stage. While pests are most common in local fruits, it is more often than not the symptom of imported seeds and soil. If the seeds and soil are not properly treated before the initial shipment, these containers become welcoming habitats for pest procreation, ready to continue their infestation at their final destination.

Farmers and producers follow strict sanitation, inspection, and clearance procedures to avoid large-scale infestation. According to Al-Wahib, the fruit undergoes an interior and exterior inspection to check for any traces of pests. Then, fruit samples are taken to the lab and tested for pests and any pesticide remnants.

The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture monitors farming sites to ensure that no highly poisonous and environmentally harmful pesticides are used and the standard provisions of Pesticide Law — agreed upon by the agricultural department of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2005 — are followed. The law states that “it is essential to control and regulate the way they (pesticides) are formulated, used, marketed, stored and handled to stave off any potential risks.” Finally, a certification is granted deeming the selected crop pest and pesticide free and safe for human consumption.

As much as the development of organic pesticides has seen great strides in the last few decades, and farmers such as Al-Wahib agree that they are the superior option to chemical pesticides in efficacy and plant health, there is yet a long way to go to bring down that SR1 billion loss to a much more reasonable number and prevent widespread health issues.

According to Al-Wahib, in addition to thoroughly washing fruits at home, watching for signs of infestation, and using suitable storage techniques, the best way to avoid the dangers of fruit pests is to “buy from trusted local markets or farms that have an official certification deeming them free of harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers.”

That way our favorite summer fruits may be readily enjoyed worry-free to refresh from the sweltering summer heat.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region conducts major flood drill

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region conducts major flood drill
Updated 15 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region conducts major flood drill

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region conducts major flood drill
  • The simulation was deemed crucial for measuring the response time, coordination efficiency, and overall preparedness for such extreme weather events

AL-MITHNAB: The Qassim Municipality’s Al-Mithnab branch has successfully executed a simulation of heavy rainfall and flash floods. The drill, which involved all relevant departments and divisions, put the region’s disaster preparedness to the test in order to bolster its emergency response capabilities.

The exercise saw the activation of the emergency rainfall plan. Some 40 field personnel were mobilized alongside a fleet of 12 vehicles and machinery, all operating under the comprehensive Emergency and Disaster Management Plan.

A key focus of the drill was assessing the readiness of critical infrastructure. Teams inspected the rainwater drainage networks, pumps, and generators. They also meticulously mapped out potential rainwater accumulation sites across the governorate’s streets.

The simulation was deemed crucial for measuring the response time, coordination efficiency, and overall preparedness for such extreme weather events.

 

 


British PM praises Saudi crown prince for role in promoting Middle East stability

British PM praises Saudi crown prince for role in promoting Middle East stability
Updated 16 July 2024
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British PM praises Saudi crown prince for role in promoting Middle East stability

British PM praises Saudi crown prince for role in promoting Middle East stability
  • Starmer, Prince Mohammed reflected on strong relationship between UK and Kingdom
  • Starmer thanked the crown prince for his congratulations on recent election victory

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the British Prime Minister Keir Starmer spoke on Monday.

Starmer thanked the crown prince for giving his congratulations on the Labour Party leader’s election victory and reported on his first days in government, a Downing Street statement said.

While discussing the situation in the Middle East, the prime minister praised the crown prince for his leadership in supporting regional stability, and emphasized the UK’s enduring commitment to peace and security in the region.

The prime minister and crown prince reflected on the strong relationship between the UK and the Kingdom, including through the Strategic Partnership Council. 

The leaders look forward to meeting in person soon and working together to strengthen areas of shared interest, including trade, investment, and defense cooperation, the statement from No. 10 added.


Saudi Shoura Council delegation arrives in Bahrain for official visit

Saudi Shoura Council delegation arrives in Bahrain for official visit
Updated 15 July 2024
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Saudi Shoura Council delegation arrives in Bahrain for official visit

Saudi Shoura Council delegation arrives in Bahrain for official visit
  • Visit will include the signing of a MoU aimed at developing parliamentary cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Shoura Council Speaker Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh is leading a delegation on an official visit to Bahrain, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

During the visit, Sheikh Abdullah will hold a meeting with Ahmed bin Salman Al-Musallam, speaker of Bahrain’s Council of Representatives.

He will also meet Ali Bin Saleh Al-Saleh, chairman of the Bahraini Shoura Council, as well as other senior officials from the country.

It is believed that Sheikh Abdullah’s visit will include the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Saudi Shoura Council and the Bahraini House of Representatives aimed at developing parliamentary cooperation.

Sheikh Abdullah said the visit is driven by the Kingdom’s commitment, under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to foster cooperation and coordination for the benefit and prosperity of both nations and their peoples, and to strengthen and unify Gulf ties.

Sheikh Abdullah highlighted the deep-rooted fraternal relations between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, adding that the close ties between the two countries in local, regional and international areas served as an example to be followed.

He pointed to the importance of the visit in activating parliamentary friendship committees, which significantly enhance coordination between the councils.