On the eve of his first visit to Saudi Arabia, Minister for Foreign Trade, Attractiveness, and French Nationals Abroad Olivier Becht met with Arab News en Français to outline his programme, which would improve Saudi-French economic and commercial connections.
“This year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the very first Franco-Saudi archaeological mission launched in Hegra under the supervision of archaeologist Laila Nehme. This cooperation has, since then, flourished, and now we have more than 15 Franco-Saudi archaeological missions, 11 of which are still being explored today,” said Becht.
He emphasised that the April 10, 2018 signing of the intergovernmental agreement for the development of AlUla was a significant boost to collaboration in the field of archaeology and heritage protection.
“As illustrated in the case of AlUla, archaeological cooperation is a main pillar of our bilateral relationship, and it paves the way for many partnerships in the fields of tourism, culture, research and training,” he said.
“The main goal of my visit is to strengthen our economic and commercial partnerships, (as well as cooperation) in the health sector. I am delighted that a strong delegation of companies from the sector, led by the Health Care Association, is accompanying me on this visit,” said Becht.
“Our companies recognize the economic attractiveness of the Kingdom, and I am sure that in 2023 many of them will take the leap and settle there,” he added.
The minister will meet Saudi Ministers of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Trade and Media Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, and Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Ibrahim Al-Khorayef on his first visit to Saudi Arabia.
“We will mainly discuss ways to strengthen our economic partnership in the health sector, but also in all the other strategic sectors,” said Becht, stressing that his hope is to make the discussions as fruitful as possible.
“French companies are committed to increasing and diversifying their investments in the Saudi economy, in line with the priorities of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, particularly in renewable energies, hydrogen, water, the environment, the digital economy, the smart city and, of course, tourism services and infrastructure,” he said.
“Several partnerships between French startups and Saudi companies and investors have been established in the recent years…in particular the delegation of startups led by Generation 2030, during the last Future Investment Initiative in 2022 in Riyadh,” Becht said.
The minister went on to say that France is willing to leverage its expertise in a wide range of high-tech and digital domains, including smart cities, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, to forge new business links with the Kingdom.
“In this context, we are pleased to welcome a delegation of Saudi startups and investors, led by the Ministry of Investment, to tour the French tech ecosystem (such as Station F, Saclay and Toulouse) in early 2023 and strengthen the ties between both countries in this field,” he said.
In 2022, the Kingdom initiated various projects, including The Line in NEOM, which is regarded as one of the world’s largest. Becht told Arab News en Français that French companies are completely committed to participating in Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects as part of the country’s economic diversification strategy.