Economic and Social Committee of UK-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council Concludes 2nd Meeting in London

Saudi British council to discuss private sector role in supporting economic reform

The Economic and Social Committee, an affiliate of the UK-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council, has held its second meeting here, co-chaired by Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, and UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who is also Member of UK Parliament Kwasi Kwarteng.

The meeting, which took place yesterday, discussed activating the bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation between the two countries within the framework of the areas agreed upon in the strategic partnership.

At the end of the meeting, a joint statement was issued as follows:

The Strategic Partnership Council was established in March 2018 to affirm and reinforce relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Kingdom (UK), and to commit to a deeper and more strategic partnership to enhance mutual interests. The Council is made up of two pillars: Economic and Social; and Political and Security.

On 14 July 2021, under the auspices of the UK-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council, the Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP and Minister of Commerce, Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, held the second meeting of the Economic and Social Pillar under the Strategic Partnership Council in London.

The two Economic and Social Pillar co-leads exchanged constructive and fruitful discussions on reinvigorating bilateral relations and strengthening cooperation between the two kingdoms under the agreed areas of the Strategic Partnership.

Strategic Partnership for Vision 2030

The UK acknowledged significant economic and social progress since the establishment of Saudi Vision 2030 in 2016, and reaffirmed its continued commitment to support the delivery of Vision 2030, the KSA’s programme for economic diversity and social reform. Both countries acknowledged the last Economic and Social Pillar meeting outcome, which took place in July 2019 and reiterated their joint commitment to developing trade and investment, as well as delivering mutual prosperity across several sectors for the citizens of both Kingdoms.

The United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia’s appointments of Lord Grimstone and Eng. Khalid Al-Faleh as the Investment champions, Sir Steve Smith and Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al Al-Sheikh as the Education champions, Jayawardena and Abdulrahman Al-Harbi as the Trade Policy champions, in addition to existing champions, reinforced the importance that both Kingdoms place on developing the bilateral linkages to support people-people contacts and delivering increased cooperation on economic and social opportunities.

Both pillar co-leads, who recently met in Riyadh in May 2021, were keen to drive forward Economic and Social Pillar collaboration, which has been split into four main clusters.

Cluster One: Trade, Investment and Financial Services

The co-leads reflected on the significant growth of UK–Saudi bilateral trade over the past few years. Both sides explored ways of enhancing cooperation on trade and financial services, particularly in the fields of FinTech, Open Banking and Green Finance. UK and KSA priority investment sectors were also discussed and further work will identify additional scope for new strategic partnerships. During Dr. Majid Al Qasabi’s London visit, he also attended the Sustainable Investment Summit, hosted by the Lord Mayor of London, to discuss investment opportunities that support more sustainable sectors.

Cluster Two: Education and Healthcare

The UK and KSA were keen to strengthen the UK-Saudi Education Partnership and acknowledged progress delivered to date, including the identification of short-term priorities. These included training and development in special education needs and vocational education and training. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also paid tribute to the expertise and experience of the UK in the education sector, and was grateful for the work of the UK Special Representative, Sir Steve Smith, including his recent visit to the Kingdom.

Since the establishment of the Strategic Partnership, a number of MoUs have been signed between leading KSA and UK healthcare organisations to support the delivery of the Vision 2030 objectives. Both sides agreed an ambition to collaborate further on a range of areas, including: pandemic preparedness, health-technology, healthy weight and nutrition, and general development of the entire healthcare system.

Cluster Three: Energy, Industry and Environment

The UK and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed cordial relations for many decades in the field of energy, and share an expanding mutual interest in climate matters. Following Minister Kwarteng’s recent meeting in May 2021 with Prince Abdulaziz Al Saud, Energy Minister, a number of areas on energy cooperation have been identified under the umbrella of Circular Carbon Economy (CCE). These include: Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage, hydrogen, clean fuels, Direct Air Capture (DAC) and renewables. Ambitions were set for climate and environment collaboration, particularly with regards to capacity building and sharing expertise between both nations. In addition, new opportunities for partnerships were discussed, including in space cooperation, mining, pharmaceuticals, and aviation.

Noting that 2021 is an important year for the UK’s Presidency of COP26, KSA welcomes the forthcoming visit of Alok Sharma to KSA to build on already agreed commitments to collaborate on climate and environment capacity building and sharing expertise. The UK recognises the launch of the Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative as important steps in the Kingdom’s climate ambition and economic diversification agenda, in addition to advancing the Circular Carbon Economy approach in the implementation of the long term mitigation goal of the Paris Agreement. They agreed to work together towards an ambitious and inclusive outcome at COP26 that accelerates climate action, leaves no issue and no one behind, and builds on the G20 Leaders’ commitment during KSA’s Presidency to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement. Both nations are committed to tackle climate change through mitigation and adaptation, including to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. They are committed to enhance climate action ahead of COP26 that raises ambition in the 2020s and is aligned to development of inclusive long-term strategies that keep the above goals within reach.

Cluster Four: Culture, Sport and Tourism

The UK and KSA recognise and are keen to build on the excellent people to people links through the development of cultural, tourism and sporting opportunities. Agreements between the UK and KSA, including the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Sport and the General Entertainment Authority and with UK entertainment institutions will further develop co-operation. In particular, both Kingdoms are ambitious to further deepen partnerships on films, heritage, arts, tourism and entertainment sectors, and mass participation in sports.