Strength in numbers: Saudi Arabia and China seal 35 deals worth $30bn during Xi Jinping’s visit

The agreements are worth about $30 billion, and come as China seeks to shore up its COVID-19-hit economy and the Kingdom continues to diversify its economic and political alliances in line with Vision 2030. (SPA)
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Updated 09 December 2022

Strength in numbers: Saudi Arabia and China seal 35 deals worth $30bn during Xi Jinping’s visit

  • Agreements range from green energy, technology, and logistics, to construction and manufacturing
  • Major ones include an alignment plan between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative

RIYADH: China’s business links with Saudi Arabia have been significantly boosted thanks to the signing of 35 investment agreements involving organizations from the two countries.

The raft of deals came during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Kingdom. They cover a range of sectors, including green energy, technology and cloud services.

Transportation, logistics, medical industries, construction and manufacturing are also covered by the deals, as is a petrochemicals project, housing developments and the teaching of the Chinese language.

The agreements are worth about $30 billion, and come as China seeks to shore up its COVID-19-hit economy and the Kingdom continues to diversify its economic and political alliances in line with Vision 2030.

One of the deals involved a memorandum of understanding with China’s Huawei Technologies on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities. (Supplied)

The signing of the agreements was overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Xi, with the first an alignment plan between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Another deal saw a memorandum of understanding in the field of hydrogen energy signed by Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, and He Lifeng, chairman of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission.

Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, the Kingdom’s justice minister, and Wang Yi, China’s state councilor and minister of foreign affairs, inked an agreement for cooperation and judicial assistance in civil, commercial and personal status cases.

A memorandum of cooperation to teach the Chinese language was signed by Yousef bin Abdullah Al-Benyan, Saudi Arabia’s education minister, and China’s Wang Yi.

Direct investment is to be encouraged through an MoU penned by Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, the Kingdom’s investment minister, and Wang Wentao, China’s minister of commerce.

An action plan to activate the provisions of the housing memorandum of cooperation was also agreed, and signed by Majid Al-Hogail, Saudi Arabia’s minister of municipal, rural affairs and housing, and China’s Wang Wentao.

The signing of these MoUs and agreements was followed by a ceremony during which the Chinese president received an honorary doctorate degree in administration from King Saud University.

The Saudi crown prince also held an official lunch in honor of the Chinese president. (SPA)

The Saudi crown prince also held an official lunch in honor of the Chinese president.

Saudi investment minister Khalid Al-Falih said that this week’s visit “will contribute to raising the pace of economic and investment cooperation between the two countries,” offering Chinese companies and investors “rewarding returns.”

One of the deals involved a memorandum of understanding with China’s Huawei Technologies on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities, the government communication office said in a statement.

Saudi firm AJEX Logistics Services is one of the companies looking to benefit from the growing ties between the Kingdom and China.

The firm marked the visit of the Chinese leader by announcing the launch of two new services as part of its expansion strategy into China and the Middle East.

Customers will soon be able to send single-piece and multi-piece shipments from China to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain in four to seven days.

Another deal, signed between the Saudi Investment Ministry and Shandong Innovation Group, involves the construction of an aluminum plant.

Chinese chemical company Kingfa, Shanghai-based wind turbines and energy management software firm Envision, and Beijing-headquartered CITIC Construction also penned MoUs.

The range of deals prompted the CEO of the Saudi Export Development Authority, Abdulrahman Al-Thukair, to hail the strong economic relations between Saudi Arabia and China.

Al-Thukair praised the growth and development of the volume of trade exchange between the two countries, noting that China is one of the Kingdom’s main trade partners, as total non-oil exports from the Kingdom to China reached SR36 billion ($9.57 billion) in 2021, mainly petrochemicals, which amounted to SR31.7 billion, and minerals, which amounted to SR2 billion.

Thursday’s developments prompted Hussain Al-Shammari, the Ministry of Media’s director of international media, to claim that Saudi Arabia is now a “hub” for Chinese industry.

Speaking to Arab News, he said: “Today they will open a regional center for all factories of China in Saudi Arabia that makes Saudi Arabia a hub for the industry for China. The Silk Road of China will be served with the Saudi Vision. Both countries are interested in strengthening these relations and we will benefit, both China and Saudi Arabia, from these visits.”

He added: “This second visit of the Chinese president is very important. We are signing a SR110 billion contract. We are signing more than 20 agreements — it is the deal of the decade for both countries.”

Al-Shammari highlighted the importance of the Chinese president’s visit to the Kingdom and the aligned goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“These important agreements will serve both purposes of Saudi Vision 2030 and will also serve the purposes of China,” Al-Shammari said, adding: “China needs the continuity of energy and oil going to their economy. We are important to China and China is also important to us.

China is the largest commercial partner of Saudi Arabia with a $67 billion interaction annually between the two countries. (Supplied)

“The Saudi-Chinese bilateral relations are very strong, China is the largest commercial partner of Saudi Arabia with a $67 billion interaction annually between the two countries, and both leaderships are looking forward to developing these relations even further.”

As China is the second largest economy in the world and Saudi Arabia is going through its Vision 2030 goals, a transfer of new technologies is required, said Al-Shammari.

“These summits come at an important time for both countries to further strengthen these bilateral relations,” he added.

As confirmed recently by Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Kingdom will host a regional center for Chinese factories owing to Saudi Arabia’s strategic location among the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.

The minister also reaffirmed collaboration with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as well as investment in integrated refining and petrochemical complexes in both countries.

Cooperation between the two countries has witnessed remarkable growth during the past five years, Bandar bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef, the minister of industry and mineral resources, told Arab News.

The raft of deals came during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Kingdom. (SPA)

During the crown prince’s visit to China in February 2019, both countries concluded agreements to establish joint projects covering several sectors including manufacturing, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and others.

The countries already share a good history of cooperation, Al-Khorayef said, citing the example of seven Chinese factories operating in different fields in the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones.

In addition to this, there are 10 other factories at different stages of planning, construction and implementation.

Furthermore, there are about 12 projects for the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu with Chinese companies at different stages, some of them in operation and others under procedure or design.

It is not just business groups that are benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s closer ties with China.

Saudi Arabian think tank King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center signed an MoU with China’s Economics and Technology Research Institute to exchange information around energy, economics and climate change.

Under the terms of the MoU, both entities will work hand in hand to allow for the exchange of research and the generation of actionable insights.

Some of the fields of common interest which will be prioritized as topics of research include energy, economics, climate change, sustainability, transition, productivity, hydrogen and carbon capture, among others.

The MoU falls in line with KAPSARC’s mission to utilize applied research and innovation to drive and propel the global energy sector, while the Chinese organization is affiliated with oil and gas firm China National Petroleum Corporation.

Saudi Maritime Congress makes a splash

Updated 22 September 2023

Saudi Maritime Congress makes a splash

DAMMAM: Business cards were traded as fast as wheeled suitcases rolled at the Saudi Maritime Congress as thousands of key players from the industry descended on Dammam.

The fourth edition of the event saw deals struck, debates held, and networking carried out as the Kingdom drives forward with its goal of becoming a global logistics hub.

Held over two-days at the Dhahran Expo venue, this year’s gathering focused on the maritime and logistics sector throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council region – with a specific emphasis on Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plan Vision 2030.

The event took place just days before the Kingdom was due to celebrate its 93rd National Day  – a milestone which was repeated with pride numerous times by different speakers.

Omar Hariri, president of the Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, and Ahmed Al-Subaey, CEO of transportation and logistics company Bahri, delivered keynote addresses on the opening day of the event.

“The Saudi maritime sector possesses vast potentials, and this conference is an ideal platform to showcase our capabilities to the world,” said Al-Subaey, adding: “The development of the maritime and logistics sector is vital in realizing the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 objectives.

“Bahri is committed to focusing on leveraging its accumulated experience for the sector’s development within the Kingdom and across the globe.”

Arab News spoke to Chris Morley, group director of Seatrade Maritime, the organizer of the event, and he was keen to flag up how Saudi Arabia’s improvements in the logistics arena are expected to boost port revenue – an increasingly important non-oil source of growth.

He said: “By building out inland logistics hubs and enhancing rail connectivity, the Kingdom is looking to more than quadruple the country’s annual container throughput to 40 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) by 2030.”

Morley noted that the Kingdom has 53,000 ships operating within its borders, and those vessels are registered in over 150 countries and carry up to 11 billion tonnes of cargo annually.

He said Saudi Arabia’s rise on global connectivity indexes shows the Kingdom is “a powerful and promising partner for more regional and global trade.”

Morley added: “The event has been really exciting and reflects the eagerness of the global industry to be part of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to developing its maritime trade and doing business on an international scale.”

UAE-based Abdulla bin Damithan, CEO and managing director at DP World GCC, traveled to Dammam for the event and spoke to Arab News about his hopes for the deepening of ties between his country and Saudi Arabia in the future.

He emphasized how his role at DP World has recently expanded to go beyond the UAE and into the entirety of the GCC, and how the Kingdom would be one of his main focuses going forward as he attempts to help support the transformation of Saudi Arabia through innovation and investment into a global logistics hub.

“With the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, maritime is one of the focuses of the future – not only between Saudi Arabia and the UAE but also between our nations as a GCC,” he said.

Bin Damithan stressed that technological developments in the sector are having wide-reaching impacts, adding: “Technology means that we're making things much easier and creating new jobs, jobs for the young nationals of the country.

“But the most important thing, I think, is including our female colleagues who are entering into this job, where it was limited before.”

Saudi Arabia and DP World operate the South Container Terminal at Jeddah Islamic Port, the largest harbor in the Kingdom and a crucial link in the world’s busy “east-west” trade routes through the Red Sea.

With an investment of $800 million, DP World has ambitions of doubling the terminal’s capacity from 2.5 million TEUs to 5 million. Set to be finalized by 2024, the project aims to propel Jeddah Islamic Port to become a global trade and a logistical services hub.

Omar Hariri, president of the Saudi Ports Authority.

As well as discussions and debates, the event saw agreements being signed by major players in the industry

Bahri signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SAIL, a subsidiary of the Saudi Investment Recycling Co., to mutually strengthen their offerings within the Kingdom.

The latter firm, owned by Public Investment Fund, was launched in June 2022 as a marine environmental services company, which will act as a regional hub when it comes to responding to oil and hazardous spills along the coastlines of Saudi Arabia.

The alliance with Bahri aims to facilitate maritime sector development and the provision of technical support, while also promoting knowledge and expertise exchange between the two companies.

Ziyad Al-Shiha, CEO of SAIL, said this agreement would play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the maritime sector to benefit from the rapid developments, and to help consolidate the Kingdom’s position as a global hub in this industry.

His equivalent in Bahri, Al-Subaey, stressed the importance of this strategic cooperation, noting that the strengths and joint expertise between the two companies would contribute to the establishment of an ecosystem that promotes innovation, and provides new job opportunities.

Another deal involved Mawani signing a partnership agreement with SIRC aimed at promoting maritime sustainability in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Maritime Congress was supported by founding strategic partners Bahri and Seatrade Maritime, with support from Mawani, the Transport General Authority, Saudi Aramco and IMI.

The exhibition space featured over 120 organizations representing main sectors of the maritime industry including shipping, shipbuilding, artificial intelligence, as well as port and terminal management and finance.

Firms with booths included Saudi Global Ports Co, Bass Global Marine Services, and Hong Kong Marine Department.

Last year, a record 3,757 visitors attended the event and this year’s final numbers are projected to be close to that.

Chris Hayman, chairman of Seatrade Maritime, used a speech to describe Saudi Arabia as “taking a more active role in global maritime affairs.”

According to Seatrade Maritime News, he said the conference provided one of the first opportunities for the industry to discuss the implications of the new and accelerated pathway towards decarbonisation agreed at the International Maritime Organization’s recent Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting just two months ago.  

He said: “The adoption of the new technologies and the availability of zero carbon fuels needed to meet the new timetable together represent a major challenge for the global industry.

“Driven by the exciting development now unfolding here in the Kingdom, the level of support for Saudi Maritime Congress 2023 has grown substantially from last year.  

“With an increase in overall attendance of more than 50 percent and a greatly expanded exhibition, this event is on track to join the elite group of world class maritime events, matching Saudi Arabia’s growing status as a global maritime hub.”

Oil Updates – prices rise as supply concerns outweigh demand fears

Updated 22 September 2023

Oil Updates – prices rise as supply concerns outweigh demand fears

TOKYO: Oil prices rose on Friday as concerns that a Russian ban on fuel exports could tighten global supply outweighed fears that further US interest rate hikes could dent demand, but they were still headed for their first weekly loss in four weeks, according to Reuters.

Brent futures climbed 50 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $93.80 a barrel by 6:50 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 63 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $90.26 a barrel.

Both benchmarks were on track for a small weekly drop after gaining more than 10 percent in the previous three weeks amid concerns about tight global supply as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies maintain production cuts.

“Trading remained choppy amid a tug-of-war between supply fears that were reinforced by a Russian ban on fuel exports and worries over slower demand due to tighter monetary policies in the United States and Europe,” said Toshitaka Tazawa, an analyst at Fujitomi Securities Co. Ltd.

“Going forward, investors will focus on whether the OPEC+ production cuts are being implemented as promised and whether the rise in interest rates will reduce demand,” he said, predicting WTI to trade in a range of around $90-$95.

Russia temporarily banned exports of gasoline and diesel to all countries outside a circle of four ex-Soviet states with immediate effect to stabilize the domestic fuel market, the government said on Thursday.

The shortfall, which will force Russia’s fuel buyers to shop elsewhere, caused heating oil futures to rise by nearly 5 percent on Thursday.

“Crude oil bounced off a session low after Russia banned diesel exports, which included gasoline. The action reversed a downside movement in crude markets following the hawkish Fed decision on Thursday,” said Tina Teng, an analyst at CMC Markets, in a note.

“However, mounting fears of a recession in the Eurozone could continue pressuring oil prices.”

The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday maintained interest rates, but stiffened its hawkish stance, projecting a quarter-percentage-point increase to 5.50-5.75 percent by year-end.

That buoyed fears that higher rates could dampen economic growth and fuel demand while boosting the US dollar to its highest since early March, making oil and other commodities more expensive for buyers using other currencies.

The Bank of England mirrored the Fed and held interest rates on Thursday after a long run of hikes, but said it was not taking a recent fall in inflation for granted.

A European Central Bank governing council member said the central bank will most likely keep interest rates stable at its next policy meeting. 

Pakistan seeks $6bn for corporate farming from Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations by 2028

Updated 4 min 31 sec ago

Pakistan seeks $6bn for corporate farming from Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations by 2028

  • Arab News speaks exclusively to CEO of FonGrow, spearheading agriculture projects under new investment body
  • Pakistan in talks with Saudi companies like Al-Dahara, Saleh and Al-Khorayef for investment in corporate farming

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is seeking up to $6 billion investment from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Bahrain over the next three to five years for corporate farming, with the aim of cultivating 1.5 million acres of previously unfarmed land and mechanizing existing 50 million acres of agricultural lands across the country, the CEO of the company spearheading the initiative has said.

The development comes months after Pakistan set up a Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) — a civil-military hybrid forum — to attract foreign funding in agriculture, mining, information technology, defense production and energy as the South Asian country deals with a balance of payments crisis and requires billions of dollars in foreign exchange to finance its trade deficit and repay its international debts in the current financial year.

Earlier this month, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said Saudi Arabia and the UAE would invest up to $25 billion each in Pakistan over the next five years in the mining, agriculture and information technology sectors.

Initiatives in the agriculture sector under SIFC are being administered by FonGrow, which is part of the Fauji Foundation investment group run by former Pakistani military officers.

“We have estimated about $5-6 billion [investment from Gulf nations] for initial three to five years,” Major General (retired) Tahir Aslam, FonGrow’s managing-director and chief executive officer, told Arab News in an interview. 

He declined to share details about the breakdown of the investment from each individual country.

The CEO said the company was engaging with several Saudi companies like Al-Dahara, Saleh and Al-Khorayef to attract investment in the corporate farming sector. He did on elaborate on progress made so far in the discussions. 

Aslam said his company was also working on different investment models with the Saudi and UAE companies for corporate farming, including joint ventures.

“If they want to make direct investment, it is a corporate model. So, they will take an equal number of stakes in the company, and they get an equal number of positions in the governance [of the company]. So, it is going to be a joint company.”

About strategy and targets to mechanize farming, Aslam said FonGrow was working on a two-pronged approach to bring up to 1.5 million acres of new arable land under cultivation and modernize 50 plus million acres of land already being farmed.

This, he said, would require about “$25 million per each thousand acres and other for machinery, and setting up of infrastructure for value addition.”

FonGrow is aiming to set up corporate farms on over 100,000 acres in the next 5-7 years. The first such farm had already been established on over 5,000 acres of land in Khanewal, he said. 

“Next year, we will be starting our second farm on over 10,000 acres and we hope to develop the capacity to be able to develop 20 to 25 thousand acres every year,” Aslam said. “Mainly, we are starting in Punjab and then we are looking for lands. Wherever we get suitable lands, we will go to all the provinces.”

To a question about the source of capital to develop the land, the official said: “We have no issue of rupee capital availability for our project because ultimately it will bring returns to Fauji Foundation.”

“There is a small challenge that we are facing basically, which is of foreign exchange because the irrigation systems and the tractors and harvesters that we have to import, they need foreign exchange.”

Aslam said Pakistan’s corporate farming model envisioned that sixty percent of the crops would contribute to the country’s food security, and the remaining 40 percent would be exported mainly to Gulf countries to earn foreign exchange. 

He said Pakistan had received a first export order of Fauji cereal products from a Gulf nation, though he declined to name the country:

“It is a starting quantum [that] is about $25 million worth of products in one year. But I think as we break more grounds this will continue to increase in the coming years.” 

Responding to concerns about the army’s involvement in economic projects in Pakistan, he said the military was only contributing where requested by the civilian government.

“They [foreign countries] wanted an organization which provides continuity or security of their investment, that was the reason the army joined in and then the army also said we have such a large [investment] potential available,” the FonGrow CEO said.

“In the past also, the army has very willingly contributed to projects of nation-building and national importance … Army is playing its part, but no soldiers are involved.”

Saudi Arabia elected ISO council member for two years

Updated 21 September 2023

Saudi Arabia elected ISO council member for two years

RIYADH: In recognition of its efforts to implement health and safety standards, Saudi Arabia has been elected as a member of the council of the International Organization for Standardization, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Kingdom will maintain the position for a two-year period starting 2024, it said.

This was announced during ISO’s 45th general assembly meeting held in Brisbane in Australia.

The Saudi Standards, Metrology, and Quality Organization, known as SASO, represented the Kingdom at the recent ISO meetings.

SASO is committed to the ongoing enhancement and revision of Saudi standards and technical regulations, with its efforts aimed at safeguarding the nation’s markets against counterfeit, substandard, and deceptive products, ultimately bolstering the national economy. 

Meanwhile, ISO, which came into existence in 1947, is an independent, nongovernmental international organization with 169 members.

Red Sea International Airport becomes operational

Updated 21 September 2023

Red Sea International Airport becomes operational

RIYADH: The Red Sea International Airport became operational with the touchdown of the first Saudia flight early on Thursday, according to the Red Sea Global. 

In a statement, the multi-project developer behind the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism destinations, The Red Sea and AMAALA, said that the flights from King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh will arrive every Thursday and Saturday, connecting the two destinations in less than two hours. 

It added that a flight would return to the capital on the same day. “We promised to make TRS a place where people from all around the world would come to experience the best of Saudi culture, hospitality, and nature. Now, with the first flight touching down at RSIA, and our first resorts receiving bookings, Saudi Arabia’s position on the global tourism map is all but secured,” said John Pagano, group CEO of Red Sea Global. 

From today, the statement added, the flights depart Riyadh every Thursday at 10:50 a.m. before flying back to the capital after 165 minutes. It added that the other flight departs from Riyadh every Saturday at 12:50 p.m., with the return flight at 15:35 p.m. from the Red Sea airport. 

Positioned within an eight-hour flight from 85 percent of the world’s population, the airport will grow to welcome international flights from next year as additional phase one resorts open their doors. 

According to the statement, RSIA is operated by daa International, which has supported RSG with design validation and commissioning of RSIA since 2020. 

“With the arrival of RSIA’s first commercial flight, daa International’s operational responsibility commences,” it added 

In its press release, RSG also revealed the new brand for RSIA with visitors to see the brand expressed across multiple touchpoints, from the airport terminal and staff uniforms to the electric mobility vehicles that will transport passengers from air to land side. 

“RSIA is the gateway to TRS destination. It is the first impression visitors have, and their parting memory when they leave. The brand echoes the qualities of the five-star hospitality guests will enjoy across the destination,” Pagano added. 

The brand icon is a representation of the RSIA’s unique architecture. The company noted that the iconic shape is inspired by the bird’s eye view of the airport’s exterior. “It has been created to express the creativity, novelty, and sophistication of the brand in a way that is contemporary and distinct.” 

RSG further stated that it has made great progress across other infrastructure works to ensure TRS is ready to welcome visitors and meet its promises for responsible development and regenerative tourism.