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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 20:46 GMT 21:46 UK
Saudi-US trade plunges
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal with Colin Powell (June 2002)
In the past, Saudi-US ties have been close

US exports to Saudi Arabia have plunged to a 12-year low.

Figures for the first half of this year show a drop of 30%. Saudi exports to the US during the same period dropped by 24%.

On the face of it, relations between these two old allies are becoming sourer by the day with reports of economic fall-out from the political strains.


Talk of divorce is premature

Saudi businessmen and newspaper columnists are urging their fellow-countrymen to withdraw their money from American banks.

Expensive lawsuits are under way, as Americans allege Saudi collusion with terror - and Saudis allege defamation and harassment.

Underlying realities

Now the latest trade figures show a marked decline - and some analysts are attributing this, at least in part, to a Saudi campaign under way for much of this year to boycott American products.

The strains are real - but they should not be exaggerated.

Reports in the Financial Times this week that Saudis have already withdrawn billions of dollars from the US have been disputed by Saudi and Western businessmen.
Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden
Expensive lawsuits have been launched over 11 September

At the government level, neither side has an interest in seeing the degradation of the relationship get out of hand.

It is still in Saudi Arabia's interest to sell its oil to America - and it is quietly signalling it will continue to exert a moderating influence on both price and supply.

It is still in America's interest to act as the guarantor of Saudi security - for a whole mix of political as well as economic reasons.

So talk of divorce is premature.

Recent events have changed perceptions and stirred up strong feelings - but without fundamentally changing the underlying realities.


Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

22 Aug 02 | Business
21 Aug 02 | Business
17 Aug 02 | Americas
16 Aug 02 | Middle East
16 Aug 02 | Americas
12 Mar 02 | Americas
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