My Dear Friend Al DeCrane, His Excellency Abdulaziz Al-Quraishi, Ladies and Gentlemen: May God’s peace and blessings be upon you.
I would like at the outset to convey our condolences and deep sympathy to the people of the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We all can draw some consolation from the fact that the whole world rallied in support of the American people.
Dear Friends: It is a pleasure to meet with you today and I would like to thank the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council for organizing this meeting. I would also like to thank the Board of Directors and the staff for the great efforts they have made since the Council was established. Meetings such as these, I am certain, help strengthen cooperation between our two friendly countries. The United States is the main trading partner and American investors are the largest foreign investors in Saudi Arabia. Relations between our two countries are firm and strong, evolving through official and personal efforts.
Ladies and Gentlemen: You are obviously aware of the important regional and global economic and political role played by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s oil policy reflects a cognizance of these facts. It balances our strong sense of responsibility toward the global economy with Saudi national interests.
Today’s high oil prices stem not from a crude oil shortage, but from increased demand, a shortage of refinery capacity, the weather and security conditions that some oil producing countries and regions have experienced, and the unsupervised activities of speculators. We are concerned over the increase in oil prices. Here, I want to underscore the Kingdom’s readiness to offset supply shortages and meet the increase demand. We have boosted our current production capacity to 11 million barrels per day (bpd) and are working to increase it gradually to 12.5 bpd by 2009.
I would like to take this opportunity to stress the importance of promoting a dialogue between producer and consumer countries with a view toward stabilizing global energy markets. Enhancing the role of the Energy Forum established in Riyadh upon the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques will help in promoting a constructive dialogue.
Since being established by King Abdulaziz, may Allah have mercy on him, Saudi Arabia has adopted the principle of economic freedom and openness. With the grace of God, this balanced policy has contributed to high economic growth rates that have placed the Saudi economy in the forefront of the global economy.
To ensure continued economic growth and sustainable development, Saudi Arabia has embarked on an economic reform program. The program consists of structural reforms, modernizing of laws, and strengthening the private sector’s role. The promotion of investment also requires a stable economic environment. Therefore, we attach special importance to this issue and, by the grace of God, such stability has allowed Saudi Arabia to enjoy low inflation rates and exchange rate stability.
In another important development, Saudi Arabia is on the verge of accession to the WTO after concluding bilateral agreements with member countries. A bilateral agreement with the United States has been recently concluded and approved. We firmly believe that this agreement will further the interests of our two friendly countries and facilitate the development of bilateral trade and investment.
Ladies and Gentlemen: We in Saudi Arabia realize that the current improvement in our financial condition presents an excellent opportunity to expedite the reform process. We are determined to move forward in implementing the reform program, because we are convinced that is essential to improving our citizens’ standard of living and reaching our targeted development rates. The government is proceeding according to a carefully planned program to control spending and develop the infrastructure, education, and training. Some of you may be aware that King Abdullah recently ordered the appropriation of the budget surplus for payment of a portion of the public debt and for expenditures on vital infrastructure areas, education, training, and health care in addition to the appropriations which he announced last year.
Ladies and Gentlemen: The recent visit to the United States by King Abdullah greatly furthered the strong, historic Saudi-U.S. relationship. The joint statement issued on the occasion of the visit and the agreements reached cover various aspects of this relationship, point to the two friendly countries’ shared desire to strengthen and develop bilateral relations in the furtherance of their common interests.
While Saudi-U.S. economic relations are good, we always aspire to develop them further. It is the responsibility of businessmen in the two countries to increase their efforts to identify suitable trade and investment opportunities. The efforts of the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council, which we appreciate and follow with interest, help businessmen in the two countries become familiar with, and take advantage of, these opportunities.
In conclusion, I would thank the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council for organizing this meeting. I look forward to similar meetings in the future. May God’s peace and blessing be upon you.