Commerce and investment minister Majid Al-Qasabi said Saudi's US tour is to make up for lost time
The delegation of hundreds of Saudis that’s descended on the US for three weeks will meet executives from Amazon, Apple, Google, Pfizer and other companies as they hunt for foreign investment.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, and his team will spend 18 to 19 days promoting Saudi opportunities, commerce and investment minister Majid Al-Qasabi said in an interview in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. After Washington, the delegation will visit New York, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston, he said.
They’ll also be meeting with representatives from top banks including JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group, Citigroup and Bank of America, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said in an interview earlier Wednesday.
“We have missed a lot of opportunities in the past,” Al-Qasabi said. “We cannot afford to lose it now. We are racing with time.”
Attracting foreign investment is key to Prince Mohammed’s plans to overhaul the oil-dependent Saudi economy and diversify away from crude. On the first leg of the trip, his delegation has decamped at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, which has quickly become a center for hobnobbing officials, analysts and businessmen -- complete with Saudi cardamom-scented coffee and dates on the lobby credenza.
“The whole team has a full schedule of meeting who’s who: companies, corporate America, lawyers, bankers,” Al-Qasabi said. “The whole idea is to spread the word and spread the opportunities and explain if there is any misperception.”
The crown prince met with “leadership” from Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics on Wednesday, according to a news release from the Saudi embassy in Washington. “Discussion focused on the shared interests of both nations for developing technology and growing trade and business ties.”
The visit comes as the kingdom faces criticism over the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and a declared crackdown on corruption, which left dozens of princes, billionaires and former officials jailed in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in November.
Most of the detainees have since been released in exchange for financial settlements, leading some analysts to call the detentions an intimidation tactic or shakedown.
Al-Qasabi dismissed concerns raised by some analysts over the government’s plans to take controlling stakes in Saudi companies whose executives were involved in the anti-corruption campaign.
“The government is not taking over; the government has exercised its right through rule of law to return what is right,” he said. “It did this pre-bargaining exercise through rule of law, and it was transparent, and a lot of them have settled -- and some of these have settled through giving some of their shares.”
Many involved in the crackdown are “back in business as usual,” and the government is keen to “create a level playing field for everybody,” he said.