U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council
Since its establishment in 1994, the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council has acted as an effective forum for bringing business leaders from the two countries together to promote joint ventures, economic cooperation and trade. The organization's contributions have been especially valuable at a time when the Saudi Arabian private sector, with government support and encouragement, is rapidly expanding its role in the Kingdom's continued development, and U.S. businesses, buoyed by healthy economic growth at home, are looking for new opportunities abroad.
An organization of business leaders from the two countries, the council's mandate is to become the focal point for the exchange of knowledge between the Saudi and U.S. private sectors and to promote understanding of Saudi Arabia within the U.S. business community, and of the U.S. within the Saudi business community. Its primary objectives are to promote trade and investment, encourage manufacturing-related joint ventures in Saudi Arabia, create awareness of opportunities in the Kingdom for small- and medium-sized U.S. companies, increase knowledge and understanding of the business and cultural environments of both countries, and develop and strengthen working relationships with relevant private and government agencies and industry leaders in order to meet the needs of businesses.
Working out of offices in Washington, DC, and Riyadh, the council is co-chaired by Abdul Aziz Al-Quraishi, former Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency and Managing Director of Ali Zaid Al-Quraishi & Brothers Company, and Alfred DeCrane, retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Texaco Inc. The board of directors consists of prominent businessmen from the two countries.
The council uses a number of tools to achieve its objectives. One is sponsorship of seminars and conferences on the trade and investment climate, general business practices and potential investment opportunities in the two countries. These seminars are attended by executives of Saudi and U.S. companies, particularly those who have limited experience in this field and are interested in exploring business possibilities.
The council also facilitates sharing of business-related data on Saudi Arabia and the U.S. through a quarterly newsletter, a World Wide Web site at www.us-saudi-business.org, the booklet "A Business Guide to Saudi Arabia" and other publications.
Another valuable contribution of the council is its cooperation with government agencies and business organizations in both countries to organize trade and investment missions for U.S. and Saudi Arabian companies interested in specific industries and shows. The most recent example of this was the council's collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce to organize the participation of a Saudi business delegation in Power-Gen '99 in New Orleans, Louisiana, November 30-December 2. The council has also led annual missions to Saudi Arabia of business development officials at the state level to acquaint them with the Saudi business climate. Such missions and the follow-up activities enable the council to reach a much larger number of companies within the states represented.
Members of the council are among the leading companies in the United States and Saudi Arabia. Membership benefits include access to customized research and information services offered by council staff, assistance in promoting trade and investment, leadership opportunities associated with council events and activities, exposure to both the public and private sectors in Saudi Arabia, sponsorship of visas for business travel to Saudi Arabia, and assistance in arranging meetings with counterpart companies and government officials.
In addition to its regular duties, the council undertakes a range of other activities to promote understanding and strengthen relations between the two countries. Following its fourth plenary session held in Washington, DC, in September, 1999, a large number of participants flew to Orlando, Florida, to attend the opening of the Saudi Arabian exhibit at the Walt Disney World Millennium Village on October 1. The council was given the leading role in coordinating and developing the exhibit (see story, page 12) by Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard. Addressing a reception hosted in his honor by the council on September 25, Crown Prince Abdullah emphasized the organization's important role and its contributions.
Similarly, when Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General Prince Sultan Ibn Abdul Aziz visited Washington, DC, in November, 1999, he addressed a gathering of U.S. and Saudi business leaders hosted by the council. "Gatherings like this one must ultimately benefit both of our friendly countries, since they provide opportunities for an exchange of views, and an exploration of ways and means to promote the role of the private sector in U.S.-Saudi relations," he said. Praising the activities of the council, Prince Sultan urged the members to "seize the initiatives and grasp the opportunities that the coming decade offers," an admonition that the council and its members are determined to realize.