French businesses want to boost their presence in Saudi Arabia’s growing electricity, telecommunications and poultry sectors, embassy officials said on Tuesday during the visit of a trade delegation.
Saudi Arabia has been deepening its political ties with France, highlighted this month when President Francois Hollande visited Riyadh to attend a summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
He was the first Western leader to do so.
Hollande’s visit led to “a new phase” in French-Saudi ties which will hopefully open “opportunities for the French companies to increase their role and their presence in Saudi Arabia,” the embassy’s charge d’affaires Eric Giraud-Telme told reporters.
More than 30 French firms are part of the delegation to discuss opportunities in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy.
Bilateral trade “has gone up significantly in the past years,” Giraud-Telme said, reaching a two-way value of more than 10 billion euros ($11 billion) last year. About two-thirds of that figure was Saudi exports, mostly oil, to France.
French shipments of poultry products to the kingdom rose 64 percent between 2009 and 2013, while telecommunications equipment exports increased five percent from 2013-2014, the embassy said.
Electrical equipment shipments have also risen, but remain a small proportion of Saudi Arabia’s growing imports for the expanding power sector.
The delegation was organised by Business France, the French trade commission in Riyadh.
Romain Keraval, the Business France country director, said that historically about half of companies sign contracts within two years of their first visit to the kingdom.