The Council of Saudi Chambers organized last Wednesday, April 29, an event entitled "The Kingdom and International Trade Developments" in cooperation with the Harvard Alumni Association of Saudi Arabia.
In an address delivered by Dr. Turki Al Thunayan on behalf of His Royal Highness Deputy Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, an account was presented on the background of Saudi Arabia joining WTO and the beginning of their negotiations in 1993 when membership requirements posed a negative impact on the Kingdom's interests, especially in regards to the energy sector and economic diversification, until an agreement was reached in 2005 which ensured fair trade for all parties involved, for which HRH commended the negotiation team as they played their role successfully. Al Thunayyan stressed Prince Abdulaziz' belief that the government's backing of its institutions will maintain the Kingdom's benefits from its WTO membership, as well as being an active member of the organization.
Director of Policy Development at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Dr. Ayed Al Otaiby noted in his address that the new millennium was the beginning of a new era in terms of laws and regulations of the business sector in the Kingdom, explaining that the current foreign investment system contributed positively to forming close ties with the global trade community through a number of reforms and incentives that liberate the markets. Al Otaiby pointed to the Kingdom's distinguished position as one of the leading countries in trade openness and attracting foreign investments. Al Otaiby stated: "We are pleased to say that the Kingdom today allows foreign investors 100% ownership in most trade activities, in addition to their ability to benefit from investment funds and affordable land prices, among other incentives which ensure ease of doing business." Al Otaiby explained that holding such events and workshops helps elevate the trade community by creating a more transparent, competitive environment.
Board member of the Council of Saudi Chambers eng. Abdullah Al Mobty assured for his part that the Kingdom's local and global economic developments put it in a position where it can only move forward by overcoming obstacles and maximizing its benefits in today's international trade market. Al Mobty stressed that the Kingdom's trade openness over the last few decades did not only benefit its private sector, but also family businesses and society as a whole as it allowed citizens better living standards, reaching $24.000 GDP per capita in 2013, compared to $15.000 in 2009.
Al Mobty noted that over the last two decades, international trade witnessed a couple of changes which resulted in two characteristics of today's world trade: the tendency of many countries to create trading blocs, and the substantial differences concerning trade policies between advanced and developing countries, particularly in the trade and financial services and agricultural products. This contrast showed that advanced countries, whom always call for freeing trade as a motto, are not too keen on achieving that motto and rather push for protectionist policies which solely benefit them. Al Mobty concluded his address by saying: " The balance in Saudi Arabia's decision making and dealing with challenges does not only assure reducing economic risks, but also allows it to closely observe regional and global changes in order to ensure opting for the right policies."
Associate Dean for International and Comparative Law at the University of Kansas School of Law Prof. Raj Bhala touched in his address on the Kingdom's enormous leap since it has joined WTO in 2005, noting that Saudi Arabia has been a third party in only 27 out 500 dispute cases, indicating a decent record over the 10 year course of its membership. He also revealed that the Kingdom achieved 100% success in anti-dumping cases, assuring the urgency for there to be legal and trade advisors that represent the Kingdom in anti-dumping cases. Prof. Raj stated that the Kingdom has a comprehensive definition for sustainable development which transcends environment to include eliminating poverty, enhancing technology, improving healthcare, and financial development. He added that trade liberation only benefits 1% of the world population, whom by 2050 will own 50% of its wealth according to expert estimates.
President of the Harvard Alumni Association of Saudi Arabia Dr. Saud Al Ammari commended the efforts of the Association since its establishment 30 years go in servicing Saudi society and the Harvard community and bridging the gap between the two, assuring its continued support to this reputable community. Al Ammari expressed his regards to the Harvard alumni for their interaction with the Association's activities, and the Council of Saudi Chambers for hosting this highly important event.