Relationship strengthens

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2011, 12:00am


Saudi Arabia, the world's major oil exporter and also the largest oil supplier to China, continues to strengthen its ties with Asia through trade, cultural, education and financial relationships.

Since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and China established diplomatic relations in 1990, bilateral links between the countries have grown significantly in tandem with each other's expanding economies and global presence. China's demand for oil imports has been largely supplied by Saudi Arabia and, at the same time, Saudi Arabia is a substantial importer of Chinese products.

In addition to supplying oil, Saudi Arabian companies, including Saudi Aramco, have formed joint-venture enterprises with Chinese petrochemical companies to further develop China's oil refinement industry. Meanwhile, more than 70 Chinese construction companies, employing about 20,000 mainland staff, are working on Saudi Arabian infrastructure and development projects.

According to Chinese customs data, Saudi Arabian exports to China rose 39 per cent to US$32.81 billion last year compared with the previous year, while its imports from China rose 16 per cent over the same period to US$10.37 billion. At present, Saudi Arabia is China's largest trading partner in west Asia and Africa.

At the same time, trade between Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong also continues to increase. Hong Kong Trade Development Council figures show trade exports from Hong Kong to Saudi Arabia in US dollar terms grew by 5.6 per cent between January and July compared with the same period last year. Exports, which include re-exports, reached US$358 million during the seven-month period. Major products included telecommunication equipment and parts, computers, watches and clocks apparel and textiles and jewellery.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Consul General in Hong Kong, Hammad Al-Rowaily, says the city's financial services, infrastructure and business efficiency also play a key role in supporting the economic ties between Saudi Arabia and China. Visitor arrivals from Saudi Arabia to Hong Kong jumped more then 40 per cent last year to 28,401, up from 19,035 in 2009.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia last year, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China attached great importance to its ties with the kingdom and would further strengthen the friendly co-operation. In a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al- Faisal, the two diplomats discussed ways the two countries could deepen co-operation in energy, infrastructure, finance, and science and technology to inject further dynamism into the bilateral economic and trade co-operation.

According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2011-12, released earlier this month by the World Economic Forum, Saudi Arabia has broken into the top 20 most competitive economies in the world for the first time, which also saw Hong Kong continue its upward trend of recent years.

Saudi Arabia has climbed four places from 21 to 17. According to the report, the ranking highlights the pay off of years of prudent policymaking and regulatory overhaul seeing the country consolidating its position as attractive places to do business.

'The current global environment makes it challenging for any economy to attract foreign direct investment, but the ability of Saudi Arabia to appeal to investors seeking long-term value creation has been further enhanced, while the competitiveness of many countries stagnates or deteriorates,' the report says. In just five years, Saudi Arabia has risen from 67th to 11th on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index; the country holds the No 1 spot in the Middle East.

The report says China (26th) continues to lead the way among large developing economies, improving its rating by one place and solidifying its position among the top 30. Hong Kong ranks No 11.

To assist foreign businesses with activities in Saudi Arabia and established in 2000 as the 'guardian angel' of business in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority's primary role is to identify investment opportunities that are linked to the kingdom's competitive advantages. The authority provides value-added business services and solutions to investors and business owners, such as one-stop-shop offices centralising the critical services necessary to invest in or set up and operate a business in Saudi Arabia.

The influential Oxford Business Group reports that Saudi Arabia's economy looks set for a period of sustained growth, with oil revenues remaining high, non-hydrocarbons exports on the rise and the effects of a massive investment programme by the state starting to take effect.

These include King Abdullah announcing a series of new spending programmes over the past few months, schemes that will see up to US$130 billion invested in large-scale housing, infrastructure and economic support projects.

The Saudi royal family has also unveiled plans to construct the Kingdom Tower, which at 1.6km tall would make it the tallest building in the world.

When complete, the Kingdom Tower will consist of hotels, offices, luxury apartments and a shopping centre.

As the kingdom's multibillion-dollar construction market continues to defy the global economic slowdown and become one of the most dynamic markets in the world, close attention is being paid to efficient infrastructure and sustainable development.

As an example of Saudi Arabia's desire to lead the way, with the introduction of sustainable green building ideas, the kingdom staged it's first Green Buildings Forum in October last year.

The national forum was devoted to green buildings emphasising the efforts made by the kingdom to create environmentally responsible and efficient structures.

To meet the kingdom's desire to reduce power consumption and carbon emissions, Riyadh will host Green Building Design and Interiors Arabia 2012, open to international and local companies capable of providing green building and eco-friendly materials, energy and water efficient technologies, and intelligent building design and management systems.

In keeping with Islamic beliefs and tradition, Saudi Arabia responds to global tragedies with aid and support, which has earned the country a reputation as one of the world's quickest reacting and most generous providers of aid to victims of natural disasters.