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Could Missouri be the place for Saudi Arabia’s next big investment?

Missouri as of late has been looking overseas for new opportunities, both diplomatically and economically.

And even though the U.S. has a very long and complex history with the various countries and cultures that reside in the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula, Missouri is looking to broaden its horizon in this frontier.

In November, Gov. Mike Parson embarked on a trade mission to the Middle East where he visited Israel and the United Arab Emirates to promote Missouri as an ideal place for foreign investment.

Missouri is also looking to expand the private sector in the near future as well. According to the Department of Economic Development, Missouri is going to have a booth for the Arab Health Convention in the United Arab Emirates this coming January. While there, health care providers from Missouri will have a chance to show off their technology and expand business connections.

While Missouri is expanding into new frontiers in countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the state could also look into strengthening the bond with a longtime ally: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This year has been full of American and Saudi diplomacy. President Joe Biden took a trip to Saudi Arabia this past summer, where he met with the Kingdom’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. The Kingdom also participated in a very important prisoner trade deal between Russia and the U.S, both of whom are still embroiled in different sides of the conflict in the Ukraine.

Missouri has a smaller relationship with the Kingdom compared to the U.S. as a whole, but the relationship has room to grow. As of now, Missouri exports about $132 million worth of goods to Saudi Arabia. It might be surprising to many to learn that Missouri’s top exports to the Kingdom are mostly different types of electrical technology and mechanical parts. Missouri also imports about $24 million worth of goods according to data from the International Trade Administration.

Fahad Nazer, the official spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., sat down with The Missouri Times to discuss the future of economic relationship between the Kingdom and the U.S. — and where exactly Missouri fits in.

“There are great opportunities in the Kingdom as we try to invest in a number of sectors,” said Nazer.

As of now, one of the Kingdom’s biggest expansions is in the field of energy production and stability. Although Saudi Arabia is known for its efficient crude oil production, Nazer talked in depth about the country’s move to start diversifying its energy sector and investing in other areas.

This is also a move Missouri has made as well with companies like Ameren — that continues to develop new solar stations around the state — and organizations like Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority investing in biofuel initiatives. There is definitely a demand for Missouri’s energy initiatives around the world, especially overseas.

There are also other sectors Missouri can invest in and be invested in. As mentioned before, Missouri has already taken a step forward when it comes to expanding its investments in health care in the Middle East. Health care has only grown more important as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Missouri and Saudi Arabia’s need for health care and healthcare investment is no different.

But Nazer also emphasized that energy and health care are not the only sectors where business can thrive between the two nations and Missouri specifically.

“Health care, the financial sector, education, housing, tourism, entertainment, mining, food security, cyber security, you name it. I really can’t think of a single sector of the economy where there isn’t interest, there isn’t potential, there isn’t investment,” said Nazer.

Some of Missouri’s biggest industries domestically have the opportunity to become big industries internationally. As of now, some of Missouri’s biggest international exports include agricultural products and both mechanical and electrical engineering components. Some of those are already exported to the Kingdom on a large scale. There is definitely room to grow those areas as well. But Missouri excels in other industries as well, like finance, real estate and health care that could prove to be worthwhile investments abroad and at home.

Who Missouri trades with is also a big deal. While the U.S. continues to trade billions of dollars worth of goods and services to numerous countries, individual states do the same. But Missouri is narrow in its trading portfolio when it comes to partners. Canada is Missouri’s largest trading partner with $5.2 billion traded between the nations. Missouri’s business with Canada is almost double that of their second place partner, Mexico at $2.6 billion. China is in third place at $929 million, all according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

When asked about why Missouri should look to invest more or be invested in by some of its other trading partners, Nazer talked about the importance of the new world we live in and what kind of economy it brings with it as well.

“We live in an increasingly interconnected world. We are absolutely a part of an interconnected global economy,” he said.

While the Missouri economy is doing very well as of now, it may be worth the time of all Missourians to think about the future and look overseas for new and exciting opportunities in a variety of different sectors both abroad and at home.