Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia want to do more business together.
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Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia want to do more business together.
Despite a slumping economy and geopolitical uncertainty, Hong Kong’s leader has welcomed Saudi Arabian elites to the city for a business conference, an example of how it is welcoming new potential partners.

During his opening remarks on Thursday, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee called the meeting “another significant step forward in the deepening of ties between Hong Kong and the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia.”

Two-day event sponsored by Hong Kong government, stock exchange and Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, was organized by Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute. In Riyadh, the institute holds an annual event called “Davos in the Desert.”

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, PIF Governor and FII Institute Chairman, said the institute is looking to expand in Asia. A Hong Kong office opened in 2020, and “hopefully very soon we will open offices in China and India,” he said.

In part, Al-Rumayyan said, Hong Kong was selected as a partner for the latest FII event because it is a major financial hub and close to mainland China.

Hong Kong has aggressively courted Saudi Arabia for more business this year as it works to hedge against US-China tensions, which have increased the risk of Western companies reducing their operations in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, according to Willy Lam of the Jamestown Foundation.

The summit, he said, would provide a “shot in the arm” to Hong Kong’s economy, which has suffered from an exodus of foreign talent, a decline in property prices, and fewer foreign companies using the city as a regional base.

According to Lam, Saudi Arabia could be a big prize for Hong Kong because of its size and allyship with China.