INTERVIEW: French minister reaffirms France’s commitment to increase and diversify investments in the Saudi economy
PARIS: Arab News en Français met with Minister for Foreign Trade, Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad Olivier Becht on the eve of his first visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss his program that will strengthen Saudi-French economic and trade ties .
“This year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first-ever Franco-Saudi archaeological mission launched in Hegra, led by archaeologist Laila Nehme. This collaboration has since flourished, and now we have more than 15 Franco-Saudi archaeological missions, 11 of which are still being explored today,” Becht said.
He emphasized that the signing of the intergovernmental agreement for the development of AlUla on April 10, 2018 was a real boost for cooperation in the field of archeology and monument preservation.
Our companies recognize the economic attractiveness of the Kingdom and I am sure many of them will take the plunge and settle there in 2023.
Olivier BechtMinister of Foreign Trade, Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad
“As exemplified in the case of AlUla, archaeological cooperation is a main pillar of our bilateral relationship and paves the way for many partnerships in tourism, culture, research and education,” he said.
“The main objective of my visit is to strengthen our economic and commercial partnerships (and cooperation) in the health sector. I am very pleased that a strong delegation of companies from the industry, led by the health association, is accompanying me on this visit,” said Becht.
“Our companies recognize the economic attractiveness of the kingdom and I’m sure many of them will take the plunge and settle there in 2023,” he added.
During his first visit to Saudi Arabia, the Minister will have the opportunity to meet Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Trade and Media Minister Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi and Industry and Minerals Minister Bandar Ibrahim Al-Khorayef.
“Above all, we will discuss ways to strengthen our economic partnership in the health sector, but also in all other strategic sectors,” said Becht, emphasizing that he hoped to make the talks as fruitful as possible.
“French companies are keen to increase and diversify their investments in the Saudi economy, in line with the priorities of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, particularly in renewable energy, hydrogen, water, environment, digital economy, smart city and of course , tourism services and infrastructure,” he said.
“Several partnerships have been established between French startups and Saudi companies and investors in recent years… notably the delegation of startups led by Generation 2030 during the last Future Investment Initiative in 2022 in Riyadh,” said Becht.
The minister added that France is ready to use its expertise in many high-tech and digital fields – including smart cities, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence – to build new economic partnerships with the kingdom.
“In this regard, we are pleased to welcome a delegation of Saudi startups and investors, led by the Ministry of Investment, touring the French tech ecosystem (such as Station F, Saclay and Toulouse) in early 2023, strengthening the links between the two countries in this area,” he said.
The kingdom launched several projects in 2022, including The Line in NEOM, which is considered one of the largest projects in the world. Becht told Arab News en Français that French companies are fully committed to participating in the giga-projects of Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plan.
“Several French companies are already involved in the development of NEOM, particularly in the transport and infrastructure sectors. Many other sectors offer opportunities for our companies: information and communication technologies, energy and sustainable development, construction, engineering consulting, tourism and security,” said Becht.
The French minister’s visit, which begins on Monday 19 December and will last several days, is not limited to Riyadh. He also expressed his intention to visit AlUla to discover the region and the richness of its archaeological sites, particularly from the Nabataean, Dadanite and Lihyanite periods.
“This visit will also give us the opportunity to reaffirm the French government’s full commitment to supporting the development of AlUla in each of the following aspects: culture, archaeology, tourism, agriculture and energy,” he said, adding that the French The agency for the development of AlUla works “daily” with the Royal Commission for AlUla for this purpose.