Trade issues were also high on the agenda for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud`s visit to India in February 2019. The trip to Asia continued with a trip to China, where discussions turned on China`s contribution to the 2030 vision and the investment opportunities offered by the Belt and Road initiative, which will cross the Red Sea on its way to Europe. In March 2019, a delegation from the Bangladesh Ministry of Trade and Investment signed several investment contracts and agreed to establish a joint working group to set up the Saudi Bangladesh Business Council. The UK`s exit from the EU could provide Saudi Arabia with another opportunity to improve relations with the eu. At a conference organized by the Arab-British Chambers of Commerce in September 2018, participants were informed that the UK was ready to discuss a free trade agreement either multilaterally with the GCC as a trade bloc or bilaterally with Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries. The government`s determination to attract investment has led to a change in mentality in its long-standing policy of preventing special economic zones (SEZ). Free trade zones and zenics are a growing trend in the region and, according to the OECD, have added a global trade value of $500 billion and created employment opportunities for 66 million people in 2018. The United Arab Emirates has 45 free zones and another 10 are under construction in 2018. Saudi has historically preferred to promote its low-tax, low-cost input framework as a single economic area, but in late 2018 it revealed details of its first SEZ, to be located to Riyadh`s international airport. The area will focus on integrated logistics and allow investors to work according to specific rules and regulations. Both objectives are being pursued through intergovernmental efforts to reorganize Saudi Arabia`s business environment. Changes to the legal and regulatory environment governing trade and investment promise a long-term vision of economic growth, even if concrete short-term results are not yet assured. The Kingdom`s trade efforts are aimed at building on an already well-developed structure of bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Saudi Arabia has been a member of the World Trade Organization since 2005 and its position in the Arab Wholesale Area gives it privileged market access in 17 MENA economies. As a member of the GCC, Saudi Arabia benefits from the customs union agreed by the bloc in 2003 and from the free trade agreements signed by the GCC with countries such as Syria and Singapore.