Remarks at the U.S.-Saudi Arabia CEO Summit

Remarks
Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Washington, DC
April 19, 2017


SECRETARY TILLERSON: (Applause.) Well, thanks so much, Tom, and good afternoon to all of you. And Tom and I are old friends, many years back, and he has done extraordinary things with the Chamber under his leadership in terms of representing American business interests throughout the world, throughout the globe, and has done just a terrific job I think in advancing American business interests.

I’m also pleased to be here today and want to thank the Council of Saudi Chambers also for co-hosting the event. And it’s always – the good work you do on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia similarly brings opportunities to U.S. business interests and the community as well.

I want to particularly extend a warm welcome to His Royal Highness Prince Saud al-Faisal, to His Excellency Dr. Qasabi, to Ambassador Abdullah Al Saud, and to Vice Chairman Khaled al-Seif.

I thank all of you for your commitment to this very strong partnership between our two countries and for your cooperation on achieving our shared economic and strategic goals.

I’m pleased to be here today to reaffirm the very strong partnership that exists between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We have a long relationship with Saudi Arabia that extends over 80 years, and our support for a strong and steady partner on economic cooperation remains as firm as ever.

As many of you know, we had a very successful visit last month with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his delegation. During the course of these meetings, President Trump and members of his cabinet agreed the U.S.-Saudi partnership should be taken to new heights. Those meetings, and numerous others since, show how the renewed depth and strength of our relationship is growing.

As for me, I’ve already had many opportunities to meet with Foreign Minister al-Jubeir. As we work together with Saudi Arabia on some of the most vexing problems confronting Middle East security and stability, we are very encouraged to find in the Saudi leadership a strong and steady partner on these issues as well as on the economic cooperation.

We support Saudi Arabia’s 2030 plan that seeks to transform their economy and society. In particular, specific commitments to increase foreign ownership on listed companies; to boost the women’s workforce participation rate from 22 percent to 30 percent; to augment the private sector’s contribution to GDP from 40 percent to 65 percent; to move to free market pricing in place of subsidies in energy; to raise the share of non-oil exports from 16 percent to 50 percent of non-oil GDP; and to increase dramatically the capacity and quality of the health and education sectors through substantial capital investment.

We encourage these kinds of reforms globally, and we certainly applaud Saudi Arabia’s leadership in pursuing this vision and economic progress for the region.

The Trump administration has made it clear that one of our policy priorities is to get better deals for the United States. Many of our administration’s cabinet secretaries have already met with their Saudi counterparts, including at Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the Treasury, and we’re working to arrange meetings with other cabinet secretaries as well.

This administration is committed to using its good offices to help facilitate partnerships between American businesses and Saudi Arabia.

By choosing U.S. companies for its procurement and service needs, the kingdom will reap the benefits of what our private sector is best known for – superior technology, high quality products, creativity, professionalism, and reliable service – and importantly, partners you can count on to deliver on their commitments.

The Saudi Government and Saudi businesses can be confident they are working with companies that abide by the highest anti-corruption standards and laws in the world.

When U.S. companies invest in the Saudi economy, everyone wins. The U.S. creates jobs at home, and businesses in the Gulf region get the best business partners that the global marketplace has to offer.

For Saudi Arabia’s transformation to succeed, the private sector requires support from us in the public sector. This means engaging the Saudi Government to ensure rule of law in commercial transactions; transparency in procurement; adherence to international, science-based standards developed in consultation with industry experts; the protection of intellectual property rights; and a simpler, streamlined process to register and establish businesses in the kingdom.

The Department of State is ready to help in this process. First and foremost, our U.S. charge d’affaires, our deputy chief of mission, our consuls general, and commercial officers and economic officers in Saudi Arabia are at your disposal to engage with our government to facilitate trade and investment. This assistance includes all of the meetings, phone calls, and legwork of our Foreign Service officers to discover market conditions and support early-stage exploratory talks by you when you come to the kingdom.

We often talk about the commercial sales opportunities in Saudi Arabia, but we also hope Saudi Arabia will partner and invest with us here in the United States as well.

One of the objectives of our regular commercial and economic dialogues in the region is to promote two-way foreign direct investment. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program seeks to transform its Public Investment Fund into a sovereign wealth fund with holdings of hundreds of billions of dollars. We understand that the government will aim to hold 50 percent of its non-Aramco assets abroad, compared to the 95 percent of the PIF’s funds that are currently invested in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia will find many promising investment opportunities in the United States, and that will become more apparent as you further engage with our companies later today.

And all of you assembled today, here and in the kingdom, have a friend in the U.S. Government to assist you in fostering mutually beneficial economic collaboration.

I thank our Saudi partners for being here today to learn about the opportunities our industry-leading American companies have to offer.

And I thank, again, the Chamber – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Saudi Chambers for helping to initiate a successful new chapter in our important and enduring relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

You’re always welcome, and it’s good to see all of you. Thank you.

(Applause.)