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Saudi-France business ties flourish as Macron woos MBS

Trade between the two countries came to $12 billion in 2022, a growth of 47% compared with 2021.
France's President Emmanuel Macron greets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he arrives at presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, on June 16, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron hosts Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for talks in Paris, seeking to nudge the de-facto leader of the oil-rich kingdom into more full-throated support of Ukraine against the Russian invasion. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)

The last week has been significant for both Saudi Arabia and France, as French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for talks on investment opportunities in areas including culture, tourism, technology and clean energy.

Arriving last week and holding talks with Macron on Friday, it was the crown prince's second visit to France in the last year. Ties between the two countries are strong, and unlike many other European leaders, who have taken a step back from MBS over the kingdom's human rights record, Macron has been warmer to him, hosting the royal on an official visit to France last July. At the time, human rights campaigners criticized Macron's decision, as it was only four years after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. 

The kingdom’s Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih led the delegation at the French-Saudi Investment Forum in Paris on Monday, which was hosted by Falih’s ministry. Paris is also hosting a conference on Thursday and Friday called the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact that MBS is attending, which will touch on issues including climate change, energy and economic crises. 

On Tuesday, MBS attended a ceremony held at the Bureau International des Expositions, the organizing body for International Expo exhibitions, to showcase Riyadh’s pitch to host the event in 2030. If Riyadh ends up hosting the event, it will pump billions of dollars into the Saudi economy.

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