US and Saudi Arabian companies signed business deals worth tens of billions of dollars on Saturday during a visit by President Donald Trump, as Riyadh seeks help to develop its economy beyond oil.
National oil firm Saudi Aramco said it signed $50 billion of agreements with US firms. Energy minister Khalid al-Falih said deals involving all companies totalled over $200 billion, many of them designed to produce things in Saudi Arabia that had previously been imported.
Business leaders on both sides were keen to demonstrate their talks had been a success, so there was an element of showmanship in the huge numbers. Some deals had been announced previously; others were memorandums of understanding that would require further negotiations to materialise.
Nevertheless, the deals illustrated Saudi Arabia’s hunger for foreign capital and technology as it tries to reduce its dependence on oil exports. Low oil prices in the past couple of years have slowed the economy to a crawl and saddled the government with a huge budget deficit.
“We want foreign companies to look at Saudi Arabia as a platform for exports to other markets,” Falih told the conference.
In March, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman toured Asia and his delegation signed similar agreements worth tens of billions of dollars there, including deals worth as much as $65 billion in China.
Top Saudi economic policy makers, including the finance minister and head of the kingdom’s main sovereign wealth fund, described investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia to a conference attended by dozens of U.S. executives on Saturday.