US President Donald Trump, in the first stop of his maiden trip abroad, on Saturday received a regal welcome in Saudi Arabia where he signed business and arms deals totalling $380 billion.
A $110 billion deal in which Saudi Arabia will buy US arms to help it counter Iran, with options for as much as $350 billion over 10 years, was the central achievement of Trump’s first day in Riyadh, first stop on a nine-day journey through the Middle East and Europe. Trump and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, seemed at ease with each other, chatting through an interpreter. At the royal Al Yamama Palace, the king draped around Trump’s neck the King Abdulaziz medal, the country’s top civilian honour.
“That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States,” Trump said after a meeting with the Saudi crown prince, his only utterances to the press by late in the day. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”
The king was overheard lamenting the Syrian war to Trump, who ordered air strikes against a Syrian airfield in April in response to a chemical weapons attack by government forces against civilians.
“Syria too used to be one of the most advanced countries. We used to get our professors from Syria. They served our kingdom. Unfortunately, they too brought destruction to their own country. You can destroy a country in mere seconds, but it takes a lot of effort,” he said.
The arms package includes a pledge by the kingdom to assemble 150 Lockheed Martin Blackhawk helicopters in Saudi Arabia, in a $6 billion deal expected to result in about 450 jobs in the kingdom.
National oil firm Saudi Aramco said it signed $50 billion of agreements with US firms. US technology and engineering conglomerate GE said it had signed $15 billion of agreements with Saudi organisations.
“The two countries signed a series of agreements,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir told reporters. He said the “total value of investments is in excess of $380 billion”.
Trump waved from the doorway after Air Force One touched down and before descending the staircase with first lady Melania Trump. King Salman and the US leader exchanged pleasantries and Trump said it was “a great honour” to be there.