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Saudi-Australian Relationships

Bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Australia have progressed significantly in recent years and moved from normal relations to relations of mutual trust and partnership in various fields. Australian government has stressed on the importance of achieving economical and investment partnerships between Australia and the Saudi Arabia in multiple fields. Saudi Arabia and Australia have also worked together in the fight against extremism and terrorism for stability and peace in the world. The growth and increasing number of Saudis who are receiving scholarships, education and postgraduate studies in Australian universities is an important factor in the development of these bilateral relations and in promoting humanitarian relations between the two countries on more than one level. Australia and Saudi Arabia currently enjoy a friendly and cooperative relation- ship, based on extensive trade relations as well as people-to- people contacts. The two countries also cooperate through the Group 20.

Commercial Relations

As Australia’s second largest market in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is an important trading partner for Australia. In 2014, Australia’s merchandise exports to Saudi Arabia totaled AU$3.2 billion (US$ 2.3 billion). Australia was ranked number seven among the countries from which Saudi Arabia imports goods. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s exports to Australia totaled AU$ 668 million (US$ 481 million). Other major exports were barley, wheat and meat products excluding beef. Saudi Arabia is also a substantial market for dairy products, vehicle parts and accessories, as well as a growing market for fresh vegetables, refined metals and information communications technology products. Services’ ex- ports, notably education, are also significant. Australia-Saudi business ties have expanded. For instance, the then Australia Gulf Council (now merged with the Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry) conducted a business mission to Saudi Arabia in December 2012 led by former Deputy PM Mark Vaile, former Queens- land Premier, Anna Bligh and Australia Post CEO and then Chair of the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, Ahmed Fahour. The March 2013 Joint Ministerial Commission meeting saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Australia-Saudi Business Council and the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce establishing the Saudi Australia Joint Business Council. There are over 3,000 Australian citizens employed in Saudi Arabia, mainly in health, education and other specialist areas. Saudi Arabia’s needs are well suited to Australian capabilities. Saudi Arabia has a sound economy with a fast-growing and young population, a well-managed banking system, good infrastructure, and generally low import duties and barriers. Its business community is sophisticated and familiar with Western practices. Austrade is represented in both Riyadh and Jeddah.

Educational Relations

A large number of Saudi tertiary students study in Australia, mostly under the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. In 2012, thousands of Saudi students were enrolled in Australian educational institutions in a wide range of fields such as health, IT, business and accounting, including undergraduate, postgraduate and research students. Since mid 2010, most of Saudi students studying in Australia have been on full-support scholarships, provided by the King Abdullah Scholarships Program. The new provisions, recently introduced, are not restricted to the types of courses undertaken, although there are guidelines with regard to the institutions selected for those programs. Saudi students have been well accepted in Australia and play an active role in their local communities. The Saudi Government also provides considerable social support, in addition to financial assistance, to meet the needs of its students studying in Australia, and has established the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM) under the aegis of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Australia and the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education. SACM’s regional office for the Asia Pacific region was moved to Canberra in 2004, and sees to the interests of Saudi students; it monitors their progress and helps them to overcome issues that may impact their lives and impede their studies. This expanding educational relationship is reflected in the Memorandum of Higher Education Co-operation between the two countries.