What does Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia mean?

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In an article published in the Washington Post a few days before his visit to Saudi Arabia, US President Joe Biden emphasized that “Saudi Arabia has shown courageous leadership by supporting the extension of the United Nations-backed ceasefire in Yemen.”

Biden added that his visit to Saudi Arabia was the culmination of relations between the two countries that began 80 years ago. Biden arrived in Saudi Arabia today to meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a historic visit that has attracted widespread Arab and international attention. Biden will attend an extraordinary meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia is one of the leading strategic partners of the United States. The US ranks second in Saudi exports and first in Saudi imports. Saudi Arabia is considered the US’s largest trading partner in the Middle East. The partnership between the two countries covers many areas, not limited to oil and gas. In 2019, trade exchanges between the two countries reached 280 billion dollars, in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

In 2020, Saudi Arabia and the United States exchanged around 76 billion riyals ($20.2 billion) in commodities. Saudi Arabia’s exports to the US include commodities such as organic chemicals, precious and semi-precious metals, and the textile industry. Oil exports lead the way. Saudi Arabia, which has the privilege of being in the G20 group, is among the countries with the largest foreign reserves.

What does Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia mean? 1
King Abdulaziz, US President Roosevelt and members of the Saudi delegation (Sharq al-Awsat)

There are approximately 3,50 US companies located in Saudi Arabia and investing here. The number of joint projects between Saudi Arabia and the US has reached 610 projects worth 62 billion dollars.

It is known that the two countries have signed important agreements such as the technical cooperation agreement and the agreement on assured private investments, which aims to increase the volume of partnerships between private American companies in the country. At the same time, the Saudi Aramco oil company, which signed a $50 billion deal with US companies, signed a joint venture worth $6 billion with National Oilwell. Agreements were also signed with Exxon Mobil and SABIC for petrochemical production projects.

What does Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia mean? 2
King Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt meet on board the US destroyer ‘USS Quincy’ on February 14, 1945. (Getty)

Relations between the two countries date back to 1931, when the United States recognized the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In 1933, when full diplomatic relations were established between the two countries, the Kingdom granted an oil exploration concession to Standard Oil of California (SOCAL). Its Saudi subsidiary, later renamed Aramco, made its first commercial discovery in 1938. In 1945, US President Franklin Roosevelt met Saudi King Abdulaziz Al Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal, laying the foundation for the close relations that continue to this day. In 1951, Saudi Arabia and the United States signed the Mutual Defense Treaty, paving the way for American arms sales. In 1980, Riyadh acquired 100 percent of Aramco shares.

Saudi-American relations have evolved from time to time. There have also been periods of tension between the two countries. Today, the President of the United States is visiting Saudi Arabia again, recognizing that this is a strategic necessity given the presence of oil, which drives the world’s economy and industries, and its position in the G20, the leading economic and industrial group.

Saudi Arabia’s strategic location, on the territory of Mecca, including the Kaaba, the holy shrine of more than 1.5 billion Muslims, and Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb is located, is also important for US relations with the Islamic world.


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