Saudi Arabia’s Sagia signs trade deals with Japanese institutions

Agreements made between corporations and universities from the kingdom's third-largest trading partner

The Kingdom Tower, operated by Kingdom Holding Co., left, stands alongside the King Fahd highway, illuminated by the light trails of passing traffic, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016. Saudi Arabian stocks led Gulf Arab markets lower after oil extended its slump from the lowest close since 2004. Photographer: Waseem Obaidi/Bloomberg

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (Sagia) inked a number of trade-related deals with Japanese companies and universities as it seeks to establish stronger business ties with the far-eastern country.

Among the agreements signed were pledges with Japanese banks Mizuho Bank and MUFG Bank to explore investment opportunities and with Yokogawa Electric Corporation and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation to establish a research centre in the kingdom.

Sagia also facilitated a student exchange agreement between Japan’s Oita University and Saudi’s Alfaisal University, and a pledge with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Saudi Industrial Development Fund to cooperate on financing opportunities and workforce skills building.

“Japan is one of our most important economic partners – and we are excited by the potential to expand our partnership as our economy undergoes a wide range of investor-friendly reforms,” Sagia governor Ibrahim Al Omar said in a statement to media.

Japan is the kingdom’s second largest source of foreign capital and third-largest trading partner, with total bilateral trade exceeding $39 billion (Dh143bn) to date, according to Sagia.

The state-backed body was set up to increase foreign direct investment as Saudi Arabia rolls out its Vision 2030 economic diversification roadmap and enacts reforms to make it easier to do business in the kingdom.

Since 2016, the Saudi Arabian government has delivered 45 per cent of over 500 planned reforms, including the introduction of 100 per cent foreign ownership rights, strengthening of legal infrastructure and implementing new measures to protect shareholders.  FDI inflows increased by 127 per cent year-on-year in 2018 and the number of new companies entering Saudi Arabia rose 70 per cent year-on-year basis in the first quarter of 2019, Sagia added.

The latest trade agreements follow the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 Forum, which was held this week in Tokyo, ahead of the upcoming G20 Summit taking place in Osaka later this month.

Sagia also awarded new business licences to several Japanese companies, permitting them to establish operations in Saudi Arabia. It did not detail the names of these companies.