On Tuesday, Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank addressed the growing economic importance of Saudi Arabia at the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum. In her remarks, Blank stressed the value of a U.S.-Saudi commercial relationship that benefits both Americans and Saudis.
Blank praised King Abdullah for the steps he has taken to encourage economic partnership with the U.S., citing greater public participation within the political system and the appointment of the first woman to lead Saudi Arabia’s education system. These political and social advancements have led to Saudi Arabia’s jump to 12th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey, up from a rank of 64th only a few years ago. Saudi Arabia is committed to expanding and diversifying its economy beyond oil and into new knowledge-based industries, a commitment evidenced by over $750 billion of infrastructure investment to take place over the next five years.
In her speech, Blank reminded us that this progression within Saudi Arabia helps the U.S. expand trade and economic cooperation across our borders. As our 22nd largest market worldwide, Saudi Arabia’s rapidly expanding population and industrial base will continue to provide investment and employment opportunities for American citizens. Last year alone, Saudi Arabia supported more than 1,000 American companies, including some 500 small- and medium-sized businesses. Blank insisted that partnering with Saudi Arabia will be conducive to meeting President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.
Commercial ties with Saudi Arabia are not limited to oil. On the contrary, Blank announced that the Department of Commerce has begun planning a U.S. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency business development trade mission to Riyadh and Dhahran in April 2012, marking the Commerce Department’s third business development mission to Saudi Arabia in less than two years. Blank stated that U.S. companies that focus on clean energy and energy efficiency are well-prepared to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans to reduce reliance on hydrocarbons for power generation and to improve energy efficiency.
Blank concluded her speech by stating, “As Saudi Arabia expands its efforts to create a growing and diversified economy, U.S. companies can help it succeed – to the benefit of the people in both countries. The Department of Commerce stands ready to help you in any way we can.”