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Frankly: “Houthi terror attacks will not deter US investment in the region, says Hal Delano Roosevelt

DUBAI: Terror attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis will not prevent an increase in the level of US investment in Saudi Arabia, a leading US business expert has told Arab News.

Hal Delano Roosevelt, Chairman of the Saudi-American Business Council and grandson of the 32nd US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, said: “This is certainly a concern for American companies considering sending their employees to live in Saudi Arabia. and work there. . Did he dissuade American companies from considering the opportunity to do so? I have to say no.

“It (terrorism) is part of all of our lives at this point, wherever we are on the globe. You have to stay vigilant, and you have to stay careful and aware of what concerns you, whether you’re here in the United States, in Europe or anywhere in the Middle East,” he said.

Rising Houthi militia attacks will not scare off US investors from Saudi Arabia, USSBC President and CEO Hal Delano Roosevelt said. (Twitter: @US_SaudiBiz)

The attacks – intensified recently against the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – will not prevent American companies from increasing their investments in the Kingdom, in particular in the grand strategy of sustainable development launched last year within the framework of the Saudi Green Initiative, Roosevelt said.

His verdict on the strength of the U.S.-Saudi trade relationship came on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with top policymakers and businesspeople.

During a wide-ranging conversation, Roosevelt – chairman and chief executive since 2019 of the 25-year-old council – spoke of the Kingdom’s lures to US investors, the “growing pains” some US companies face to get bills paid on time, and the legacy of his grandfather’s historic meeting with King Abdulaziz in 1945 which ushered in the modern era of trade and investment relations between the two countries.

King Abdul Aziz meets President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake, Egypt. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

After the meeting, FDR returned to the United States and called a special meeting of Congress, the Senate and the House, Roosevelt said.

“One of the things that (FDR) specifically said at the meeting was, ‘I have learned more in the last 20 hours of conversation with this great individual, King Abdulaziz bin Saud, than in two years of personal and governmental communications between my offices and his offices,” Roosevelt said.

“I think there’s a strong message in there that a lot more can be accomplished by sitting down and having a conversation like this, rather than going through all the formal protocols, and learning how to know as individuals and this – whether FDR knows it or not – is a key part of Arab culture, not just Saudi culture.

King Abdul Aziz meets President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake, Egypt. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

He also said his grandfather – whose economic policies helped lead the United States and the world out of the Great Depression – would have endorsed the Vision 2030 strategy to transform the Kingdom’s economy and society.

“I can confidently suggest that he would have been very proud and supportive of working with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to achieve Vision 2030. Why? Simply said – the betterment of its people,” Roosevelt said.

Regarding recent allegations of unexpected tax bills and slow settlement of contract bills, Roosevelt dismissed the idea that they were a hindrance to American businesses in the Kingdom, saying they resulted from the rate of growth crescent of Saudi Arabia.

“I’m sure it’s not a deterrent; it causes pauses and questions,” he said. “Here at the Business Council we have various sectors – we have defense members, we have health members, we have goods and services members – and I would classify this ‘accounts receivable’ issue as a crisis. growing and trying to find the right system that will get everyone paid in a timely manner.

USSBC President and CEO Hal Delano Roosevelt meets with Saudi Deputy Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Osama Al-Zamill on November 18, 2021 to discuss investment opportunities. (Twitter: @US_SaudiBiz)

Roosevelt explained, “Why is this happening? This continues because they have experienced unprecedented growth in the Kingdom and new systems need to be put in place, rather than just sending an invoice to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC or sending an invoice to the Ministry of Health where everything… may have been done manually in regards to paying the bills.

“(They’re trying) to hire outside consultants who can speed up and bring efficiencies to this customer account satisfaction process, and it’s working.”

Help is also available from the offices of the US Embassy in Washington, DC, according to Roosevelt.

“I can tell you firsthand that I have worked directly with Her Royal Highness Princess Reema, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. She is directly involved in these issues and contacts and connects directly with the Ministry of Health or Defense with respect to US companies that have a 300 or 120 day backlog issue and satisfies them,” he said.

Several U.S. companies approached the U.S.-Saudi Business Council last year when the Saudi government decided that in future multinational corporations wishing to do official business in Saudi Arabia should have their regional headquarters in Riyadh, but Roosevelt said said the new policy had been well received.

“We ask you to become an integral part of this community… to hire local Saudis, train them and provide them with the benefits of growth and education that you would give to your own parents,” he said. he declared.

There would also be significant benefits for US companies locating their core Middle East operations in the Saudi capital. “Once you become a local source, a Kingdom supplier, there are contracts where you will get contract preferences from the big organizations there, like Aramco, Sabic,” he said.

An illustration of NEOM, which will be built in the Tabuk province of Saudi Arabia. (NEOM.com)

“They are going to look to take care of local businesses first and there are more of them, so that also comes with incentives. So I think that’s a good thing.

American companies are interested in many sectors in Saudi Arabia, including the growth of leisure, entertainment and tourism, as well as the attractions of NEOM development in the northwest. But, Roosevelt explained, the big draw for American investors is the Kingdom’s initiative in energy transition and the campaign against global warming.

“Saudi Arabia has taken the whole world of sustainability and green production to heart. They adopted him; they’ve accepted it and they’re adopting it,” he said.

King Abdulaziz National Park in Riyadh. (Wikimedia Commons / Genius M. Nasim)

“For American companies right now…I don’t believe you’ll find another country that offers financial opportunities and incentives to bring the world of green and sustainable development, all of the technologies, into one place, where they’re ready. to spend money to help develop and grow it, and more importantly, to implement it.

“So there’s a tremendous opportunity there. They’re serious about it,” he said.

Roosevelt took issue with the Biden administration’s recent calls for Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to stem rising crude prices and suggested that US shale producers should increase production to meet demand growing in post-pandemic recovery.

“I may be one of the last registered conservative Democrats in the country, but I can certainly see and advocate for the resumption of shale production, from a jobs and economic security perspective” , did he declare.

“It’s just, why do we rely on someone else for something we already have?”