Ms. Ana Carmen Neboisa, Vice President of the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council (USSABC), was selected to be a member of the Trade and Investment Taskforce of B20 Saudi Arabia, chaired by Ms. Lubna Olayan, CEO, Olayan Financing Group. B20 membership consists of 656 representatives of G20 countries selected out of 1,000 applicants.
B20 Saudi Arabia is one of the eight engagement initiatives that Saudi Arabia will host throughout 2020 in the lead-up to G20 meeting in November 2020 in the Kingdom. B20 Saudi Arabia is chaired by Mr. Yousef Al-Benyan, CEO of SABIC, and a Board member of the USSABC.
Ms. Neboisa, along with approximately 519 members attended the B20 Inception event “Transforming for Inclusive Growth” on January 15, 2020 in Riyadh. Multinational corporations, business associations, small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), and startups represented approximately 79 percent of participants, followed by state-owned enterprises, research institutions, and universities.
The meeting aimed to familiarize members with the six taskforces and a dedicated Action Council under the umbrella of B20, namely Digitalization; Energy, Sustainability and Climate; Finance and Infrastructure; Future of Work and Education; Integrity and Compliance; Trade and Investment. SMEs and Entrepreneurship, as well as Sustainable Development Goals, are cross-cutting themes of B20. Women in Business, an Action Council, is B20 Saudi Arabia’s signature topic.
Moving forward, each taskforce will identify topics and develop policy papers, including specific and actionable 3-4 core policy recommendations, each with three sub-policy proposals and achievable suggestions, which will be summarized into a final B20 communique. The year-long process will culminate with a B20 summit in Riyadh in the fall of 2020 at which the B20 chairman will hand over the B20 communique, inclusive of the main policy recommendations, to the G20, as a clear indication of the significant role and contribution of the international business community towards shaping the global policy agenda.
Significantly, while B20 Saudi Arabia business community is diverse and inclusive, U.S. and Saudi members represent the top two categories of participants by country of origin. Saudi members account for 25.9 percent while U.S. members account for 11 percent of the total participants. This translates into an unique opportunity for the U.S. and Saudi business communities to take advantage of this momentum to identify and position B20 priorities, conduct advocacy for policy recommendations, gather feedback and best practices from the G20 business communities, and lead the way in channeling concrete and differentiated policy recommendations as well as achievable actions to effect change in the global arena. This can also positively impact the growth of the U.S.- Saudi business relations.
The Council aims to play an active role in this unique context. Throughout the year, the USSABC will contribute to the taskforce’s focus on Trade and Investment Facilitation and Promotion, one of its four focus topics. The Council will reflect its 25+ years of experience in raising awareness of trade and investment opportunities in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and also giving U.S. and Saudi large companies as well as SMEs the appropriate tools to succeed together and platforms to voice challenges and formulate solutions. More specifically, the USSABC will aim to channel members’ recommendations related to four major sub-topics, namely:
- Micro, small and medium size enterprises (MSMEs) in global economy
- Multilateral investment facilitation agreement
- Trade Finance and Innovation
- Tourism Industry
Current International Trade and Investment Framework
While protectionism is increasing internationally, trade and investment remain sources of global growth. The world is witnessing a parallel process of liberalization and protectionism. It is estimated that the World Trade Organization members applied 38 new trade-restrictive measures, covering $340 billion of goods traded, while also further liberalizing trade by implementing new import-facilitating measures covering $398 billion of traded goods during October 2018-October 2019. Investment facilitation is a key component of successful trade agreements. Transparent frameworks will boost investment facilitation thereby delivering an investment-friendly environment. A multinational investment facilitation agreement should focus on enhancing openness, transparency, predictability, non-discrimination, international cooperation, creation of focal points, and the promotion and adoption of best practices. It should be periodically reviewed.
Significantly, according to The World Bank, SMEs represent about 90 percent of businesses and over 50 percent of employment worldwide. They contribute up to 40 percent of national income in emerging economies. The World Bank estimates that 600 million jobs will be needed to absorb the growing global workforce by 2030. In emerging markets in particular, SMEs generate an estimated 7 out of 10 jobs so the development of this sector should be a high priority for many governments. Consequently, it is essential to support SMEs integration into global value chains by establishing a friendly policy framework and leveraging the potential of digital trade. Stronger participation of SMEs in global markets creates opportunities to scale up, accelerate innovation, transfer of tech and managerial know-how, broaden and deepen skillsets, and enhance productivity. These companies would benefit from continual developments of the legal, regulatory, and financial frameworks, improved awareness of the range of financing options available as well as access to capital markets and development funds for innovation, research and development; incentives to encourage the financial sector to lend to SMEs and strong intellectual property legislation.
In order for the U.S. and Saudi business communities to help shape the agenda for change and keep pace with the fast-changing international economy, the Council welcomes a dialogue on policy recommendations and actions across the four major sub-topics outlined above. To help the Council channel current, concrete, practical, and realistic feedback and policy recommendations, please contact Ana Carmen Neboisa here. More information on B20 Saudi Arabia is available here.