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Saudi Arabia, US companies reach $55 billion in deals

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A giant billboard bearing portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman, is seen on a main road in Riyadh, on May 19, 2017. Trump, on his first foreign trip since taking office in January, will tell Muslim leaders of his 'hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam' as he seeks support for the war against radical Islamists, Washington has said. / AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia announced more than $55 billion in deals with US companies Saturday, coinciding with President Donald Trump’s arrival here for a two-day visit.

The Saudis announced they had reached preliminary agreements with US defense companies, industrial manufacturers and oil and gas companies following a Saudi-US CEO Forum in Riyadh that will help Saudis make progress on their Vision 2030 plan to modernize and diversify the country’s economy.

The series of deals also includes a $12 billion investment in a US oil refinery from Motiva Enterprises, a subsidiary of Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil and gas company.

The deals are at least in part aimed at garnering good will with Trump, who has focused on delivering a boost to companies in those three industries, giving him a multibillion-dollar package to champion as he returns to the United States.

The deals were paraded before Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in a public ceremony at the Royal Court, with the American CEOs walking to the middle of a cavernous room to exchange leather-bound folios marking the agreements with various Saudi ministers.

Sitting at one end of the ballroom beside Salman, Trump, who arrived in the room looking drained from the long flight to Saudi Arabia and series of meetings, began to smile and applaud as the exchanges took place.

The agreement with defense companies represents just a sliver of the $110 billion deal that Trump and Saudi King Salman signed moments earlier.

The defense portion of the agreements on Saturday includes a $6 billion deal for Lockheed Martin to build 150 Blackhawk helicopters in Saudi Arabia, helping the kingdom develop its defense industry, which is a key component of the country’s 2030 Vision plan. US defense company Raytheon will also establish a branch in Saudi Arabia and General Dynamics agreed “to localize design, engineering, manufacturing, and support of armored combat vehicles,” the government announced in a press release.

GE also reached a $15 billion deal to work with the Saudi kingdom on a range of projects aimed at improving the country’s power grid and energy capabilities.

Dow Chemical will also build a $100 million manufacturing plant in the country.

The Saudi oil and gas industry also reached $22 billion in partnerships between Saudi Arabia and US companies that will bolster the country’s massive oil and gas industry.

Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia’s capital Saturday for the first stop on his five-city foreign trip, the first of his presidency. But Trump will be looking for more than just economic deals as he eyes an increased commitment from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and terrorism more broadly in the Middle East.

The deals represented a significant victory for the Saudi deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has championed the Vision 2030 plan as necessary to modernizing the country and diversifying its economy.

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