Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman of Saudi Arabia made it clear that Riyadh wants to “collaborate, not compete with Beijing,” and he “ignored” Western concerns over deepening links between his country and China.
Riyadh, as the top oil exporter, has strong hydrocarbon relations with the world’s largest energy consumer. While political ties between the two countries have warmed, security and sensitive technology collaboration between the kingdom and China have deepened, much to the worry of the United States.
At a commercial conference between Arab countries and China, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was asked about criticism of the bilateral relationship. He responded, “I actually ignore it because… as a business person.. now you will go where opportunity comes your way.”
As the adage goes, “we don’t have to be facing any choice which has to do with (saying) either with us or with the others.”
After US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit, Riyadh has become a magnet for Chinese businesspeople and investors interested in the conference’s topic.
Saudis’ trade in oil
Saudi Aramco, a state-owned oil company, signed two large transactions in March, increasing its multi-billion dollar investment in China and solidifying its position as China’s main supply of crude.
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping’s December visit to Saudi Arabia, when he urged for oil trade in yuan, weakening the dollar’s supremacy, these deals were the largest announced.
‘Of course we have to catch part of that demand,’ Prince Abdulaziz said of China’s rising oil demand.
“Work with China instead of against China.”
The momentum between the two countries has also increased the likelihood that China and the Saudi Arabia-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will reach an agreement on a free trade deal that has been in the works since 2004.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment, Khalid Al Falih, recently stated that the region’s efforts to diversify its economy away from oil mean that any agreement reached will need to safeguard new businesses in the Gulf.
Falih said, “We need to enable and empower our industries to export, so we hope all countries that negotiate with us for free trade deals know we need to protect our new, emerging industries.” He expressed hope that an agreement might be reached soon.
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