Science and Technology Cooperation: The United States and Saudi Arabia have collaborated in several areas since the bilateral Science & Technology Agreement was signed in December 2008. The first formal working group meeting, focused on space, aeronautics, and remote sensing, met in Washington in December 2009. Since then, delegations from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and United States Geological Survey have visited the Kingdom to identify specific projects for collaboration. King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology – the Saudi science ministry – signed an affiliation agreement with NASA’s Lunar Science Institute in December 2009.
Health Cooperation: The United States cooperates extensively with Saudi Arabia on health issues. Saudi Arabia requested assistance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in auditing its preparations to protect the health of Hajj pilgrims in 2009. This led to a follow up visit by a CDC team to help ensure the 2009 Hajj did not contribute to the H1N1 pandemic. The team also tested a pilot screening program that will help public health officials track infectious disease. To expand this fruitful cooperation, the Saudi Minister of Health and the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services signed a Memorandum of Understanding for broader health cooperation in May.
In addition, the United States-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research unites local champions in the United States and Saudi Arabia who are leading the fight against breast cancer. The United States Department of State, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure have been working with their Saudi Government and non-government counterparts to raise awareness, train advocates, and improve screening and treatment. Since October 2008, through exchanges, training and outreach campaigns, over 1,000 Saudi female doctors, nurses, students, and community leaders have been provided with the tools needed to increase breast cancer advocacy efforts throughout Saudi Arabia.
Streamlining the Visa Process: The United States Department of State has streamlined, and is using new technologies to improve the efficiency and accuracy of, the visa application process. In addition to helping Saudi business travelers and tourists, this change has enabled continuing increases in the number of Saudi students studying in United States educational institutions.
Educational Cooperation: The number of Saudi students studying in the United States has more than quadrupled over the past five years, and there are more Saudi students in the U.S. now than ever before. The United States is providing educational advising services through Education USA to assist Saudi students in exploring options for study in the United States, and is supporting enhanced English language learning.
Engaging with Citizens: This past year over 125 Saudis traveled to the United States on various U.S. Department of State-sponsored exchange programs including high school exchange students, Fulbright participants, and over 80 emerging leaders chosen for the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The IVLP exchanges focused on interfaith dialogue, education for people with learning disabilities, municipal management, non-governmental organization management, human trafficking, and at-risk youth. Additionally, the number of United States-sponsored speakers, cultural programs, and workshops more than doubled from the previous year.
Supporting Civil Society: The United States partners with Saudi Arabian civic actors to promote good governance, broader civic participation, and respect for and understanding of international norms related to civil society and human rights. Through the State Department’s Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the U.S. helps build the capacity of Saudi society to foster an engaged and active citizenry in the Kingdom. In addition, MEPI is engaged with a number of women’s associations and youth organizations aimed at furthering the aspirations of Saudis to expand civic and economic opportunities and to support the King’s efforts to move Saudi Arabia toward a more knowledge-based economy.
Increasing Bilateral Trade and Investment: Building upon a robust trade partnership (United States exports to Saudi Arabia totaled approximately $10.8 billion in 2009), Under Secretary of Commerce Sanchez led a highly successful 15-member trade mission to Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in June 2010. This was the highest level trade mission to visit Saudi Arabia since September 11, 2001.
In April 2010, the United States Department of Commerce joined hands with the Ministry of Commerce to sponsor a fruitful conference in Chicago focused on business opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the United States. Four Saudi cabinet members along with Secretary of Commerce Locke participated in this event exchanging views on expanding bilateral economic and commercial ties. More than 250 Saudi and 900 American companies took part in this two-day event. Saudi Arabia has been named one of six “Tier II” targets of the National Export Initiative, in recognition of the significant potential to expand trade and investment.
Saudi Arabia has made strides to improve its intellectual property rights regime, and in February 2010 was removed from the United States Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List in recognition of its progress. Improving the intellectual property climate is essential for the Kingdom to reach its goal of developing a diversified knowledge economy.
# # #