The U.S.-Saudi Business Council (USSBC), a member of B20 Saudi Arabia, and B20 Saudi Arabia held a virtual town hall meeting on April 29, aimed at raising awareness on the B20 Saudi Arabia’s recently announced initiative to address COVID-19 and gathering policy recommendations and relevant experiences from the U.S. and Saudi Council members and business communities at large.
The B20 initiative to address COVID-19 is a cross-border and cross-sectors program that aims to identify priorities related to the current pandemic and future crises that could cause disruption, thus impacting business continuity and recommend actionable policies to the G20 to mitigate the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic. B20 Saudi Arabia’s call for action aims to emphasize that unprecedented crisis requires global leadership, coordination, collaboration, and solidarity more than ever before.
Over 325 U.S. and Saudi small, medium and large companies, industry trade associations, and economic development organizations shared experiences in managing the crisis and provided policy recommendations to support B20 Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 initiative via a survey circulated prior the event. These included policy prescriptions for governments to jumpstart the global economy in the post-pandemic phase, such as the gradual opening of economies, infusion of financial aid to the manufacturing sector, payroll support for SMEs, tax incentives, and transparency in regulation. Approximately 37 percent of respondents indicated that sales were significantly impacted due to the current pandemic, whereas operations, production, supply chain, trade, investment, workforce, and finance were somewhat impacted. The majority of respondents indicated that their companies have implemented both a globally and individualized crisis management plan, with communications being the main contributor to the success of that plan, followed by technology and playbook in place. Respondents attributed their successful management of current crisis to other factors such as best-in class network of subject matter consultants; in-house expertise on crisis management; designation as essential service provider to governments globally in healthcare and technology; operational management team leadership; effective management of remote workforce; team training; and experience.
Speakers included Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, Chair, B20 Saudi Arabia, Mr. Abdallah Jum’ah, Saudi Co-Chairman, USSBC and Chairman, Saudi Investment Bank; Mr. Steve Demetriou, U.S. Co-Chairman, USSBC and Chair and CEO, Jacobs; Mr. Rayan Fayez, Chair of the Finance & Infrastructure Taskforce; Mr. Ziyad Al Shiha, Deputy Chair of Trade & Investment Taskforce; and Mr. Imtiaz Mahtab, Deputy Chair of Energy, Sustainability & Climate Taskforce.
Mr. H. Delano Roosevelt, President and CEO of the USSBC, moderated the discussion and noted, “For more than 25 years, the Council has informed and connected thousands of U.S. and Saudi companies to do business together. Today’s program aimed to broaden awareness of B20 Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 initiative and give the U.S. and Saudi private sector companies a platform to share relevant experiences. The Business Council is honored to be a member of B20 Saudi Arabia, the voice of the business community to G20.”
Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, Sherpa, B20 Saudi Arabia, stated, “It was a great pleasure joining the town hall and participating in a great discussion about the role of business in responding to the pandemic. From a B20 perspective, our chairs and co-chairs have made immense progress toward our COVID-19 initiative in quickly identifying potential causes of business disruption and recommending urgent global measures to the G20 leadership.”
“The Business Council is proud to partner with the B20 on this important initiative. And, if I may say, we are well-suited for this type of project,” remarked Mr. Abdallah Jum’ah, Saudi Co-Chairman, USSBC, and Chairman of the Saudi Investment Bank. “Your input will also guide us in building other relevant programs throughout the year – whether in-person or online – that address issues of importance to the U.S.-Saudi bilateral relationship. We understand that programs like this are most valuable when they are not one-off events but part of a continuing conversation that promotes knowledge sharing and active dialogue to solve problems together.”
Business Council U.S.-Co-Chair Steve Demetriou further added, “businesses and governments around the world are all focused on the effort of planning how we return to work safely. We can’t and shouldn’t return to the way we have worked previously … this will be a complex effort for all of us. Here at Jacobs, we will work to permanently preserve the benefits of remote working while implementing new strategies. I applaud the U.S.-Saudi Business Council and B20 Saudi Arabia who put this program together to share best practices and recommendations for long term solutions. Today is a valuable step in the right direction.”
About B20 Saudi Arabia
B20 Saudi Arabia, the voice of the business community to G20, is developing impactful and actionable policy recommendations to G20 that will have a lasting legacy beyond 2020 though the contributions of 674 delegates working across six taskforces and Action Council: Digitalization Taskforce, Energy, Sustainability & Climate Taskforce, The Future of Work & Education Taskforce, Trade & Investment Taskforce, The Integrity & Compliance Taskforce, Finance & Infrastructure Taskforce, and Action Council on Women in Business, B20 Saudi Arabia’s signature topic. The USSBC is a member of the Trade and Investment Taskforce. Saudi and U.S. delegates to B20 Saudi Arabia account for over 40 percent of the overall B20 representation. Moreover, four out of the nine U.S. companies whose representatives serve as Co-Chairs of the taskforces and action council are USSBC members. They are Cisco, Dow Chemicals, Citi, and Air Products.
The work of B20 Saudi Arabia aims to project a reinforced and sustained global role and international recognition of KSA’s business community in line with the goals of Vision 2030.
To amplify the initiative to address COVID-19, B20 is conducting advocacy and outreach programs, and publishing topical recommendations timed to relevant G20 meetings of leaders and ministers. By June 2020, B20 Saudi Arabia aims to provide to the G20 interim and timely and actionable policy recommendations on the social, economic. and health crisis to jump start the economy post-COVID-19. As SMEs around the globe are expected to suffer the most as a result of the global pandemic, the B20 Secretariat is working with Business at OECD on a policy paper “Global Value Chain (GVC) Passport for SMEs”.The GVC is positioned as a tool to strengthen inclusive and sustainable businesses growth, support SMEs ability to navigate these chains, andaccredit the SME incorporated in one participating country as a legitimate business entity in other participating countries, through inter-governmental agreements.
The USSBC and B20 Saudi Arabia aim to work together to enhance the discussions initiated via the town hall. As part of our advocacy efforts, we will broaden the outreach to the U.S. and Saudi business communities to conduct taskforce deep dives with members and organizations to amplify the work of B20 Saudi Arabia. We will contribute to the policy development process by encouraging our members to help strengthen the policy recommendations and leveraging networks to organize sessions with government ministers, policy makers, and legislators. We will also liaise with international stakeholders and influencers for advocacy and work together to host joint events on the sidelines of international multilateral forums.