RIYADH: Commerce and Investment Minister Dr. Majid Al-Qassabi said on Monday that Saudi-Iraqi relations are entering a new era with an ambitious program.
He said the leaders of the two countries are working to establish an ambitious phase of unlimited trade, economic and investment activities, especially with the launch of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council, which is the cornerstone of the medium- and long-term businesses and planning programs.
The minister’s remarks follow the council’s maiden session that took place in Riyadh on Sunday in the presence of King Salman and Iraqi Premier Haider Al-Abadi during the visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
He said that the bilateral meetings between the leaders of the two countries contributed to shaping trade relations in the next phase by opening all channels of cooperation to serve the interests of the two countries.
Al-Qassabi recalled that the bilateral trade volume between the Kingdom and Iraq reached SR23 billion ($6.13 billion) over the last 10 years (2006 to 2016. The trade balance was in favor of the Kingdom.
The volume of trade exchange during 2016 reached SR2.23 billion, which includes exports worth SR2.2 billion to Iraq and SR24 million in imports from Iraq to the Kingdom.
Crude oil and relevant products, fruit juices, fruits, vegetables and cheese topped the list of key Saudi goods exported to Iraq in 2016, while the list of imported goods from Iraq included aluminum sheets and transport containers.
Following a recent Cabinet decision, the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council was set up under the joint chairmanship of Al-Qassabi from the Saudi side, and Dr. Salman Al-Jumaili, minister of planning and acting minister of trade, from the Iraqi side.
It was geared toward illustrating Saudi Arabia’s desire to improve relations and to enhance the trade opportunities under joint cooperation.
In August, Al-Qassabi headed a high-level delegation of government officials and businessmen to Baghdad to develop and deepen strategic and economic relations between both sides, as well as to discuss and review promising investment opportunities.
Besides trade and investment opportunities, the two parties also concentrated on other sectors such as industry, agriculture, education, health and others.