Saudi Arabia, US enjoy common ground in economic, foreign policy: Economist

Saudi Arabia and the US enjoy “common ground on economic issues as well as foreign policy issues,” which strengthens bilateral relations and is good for public expectations, said Todd Buchholz, a Harvard economist and former White House director of economic policy.

He was speaking in Riyadh at a media roundtable on Saudi-US relations from an investment perspective, organized by Sidra Capital, a Saudi firm that focuses on alternative investments.

“The Trump administration sees the opportunity to provide expertise, infrastructure and engineering necessary to Saudi Arabia to help reduce dependence on energy” in line with Vision 2030, he said.

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a law passed by the US Congress that narrows the scope of the legal doctrine of foreign sovereign immunity, will not hinder Gulf investors as President Donald Trump will push Congress to support an investment-friendly environment, Buchholz added.

“There is a recognition that the Trump administration is more pro-business and very positive about growth,” he said, adding that the world needs growth as it creates jobs and good standards of living. Buchholz cited “willingness among businessmen from Gulf countries to come to the US.”

He was invited by Sidra Capital to the Kingdom to meet local investors to discuss the Trump administration, financial markets and the US investment landscape.

Hani Baothman, vice chairman of Sidra Capital, said: “The US remains an interesting investment destination for our investors, although it is not clear whether the current administration intends to change legal frameworks with regard to immigration or the residential status of an investor. It also remains to be seen if President Trump will follow through on his promise for sweeping economic reforms.”

Baothman added: “Our success is based on being very close to our investors and taking their concerns seriously, therefore we have created a platform where our investors can discuss their concerns not only with us but also with high-profile international experts.”

Richard Banks, a financial and emerging-markets expert, praised the Kingdom’s economic diversification program, saying there are more opportunities in housing, education and infrastructure today for foreign investors than five years ago.