Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are set to hold a summit of the Middle East Economic Cooperation (MEEC) to kick off on July 31, a day after Saudi Arabia is due to host a major event.
The summit is expected to focus on Saudi Arabia’s ambitious economic strategy, and will also be seen as a platform for bilateral cooperation.
The Saudi-led plan has been dubbed the Arab Regional Economic Plan, after the region’s two main states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain – and has long been the target of international criticism.
While the UAE’s government is expected not to attend the summit, Saudi Arabia will be represented in the audience, along with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah.
The two-day summit will see representatives from the three Gulf countries gather to discuss the region and the Gulf region, the Middle Eastern Economic Summit (MEIS) website said.
Saudi Arabia has been leading a regional push to boost its economic clout and boost its economy, especially in the energy sector, which accounts for nearly 70% of the country’s exports.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – a grouping of countries in the region – is currently in the process of drawing up a plan for the region, which is likely to include a new regional currency and a comprehensive oil and gas policy.
The plan is due for a public vote in June.
While regional economic policies are not new for Saudi Arabia it has been a long time since the kingdom was seen as an economic powerhouse in the Middle-East, with the Arab Spring upending the countrys economic system and sending oil prices spiralling.
The countrys oil production has remained at about half its pre-2011 level for years, with a recent rebound in oil prices pushing the country to a record low.
Saudi economic growth in the first half of the decade has averaged only 4.5% a year.
However, the country has seen a sharp drop in oil price over the past year, which has seen the economy shrink by 4.2% in the year to June.
The kingdom’s government has said that the current situation is unlikely to continue and that its economic growth could drop further.
The United Arab Emirate is expected also not to participate in the summit.
The UAE has been critical of the Saudi strategy, accusing the Saudi-based kingdom of trying to create instability and destabilise the region.