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Davos in the Desert

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Some of the biggest players have gathered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII). The conference is often referred to as “Davos in the Desert,” as they are competing with the World Economic Forum to be the largest economic conference of the year. Washington’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is at a standstill, but that is not preventing Wall Street’s chief names from attending.

“American companies will make their own decisions about their presence and where to invest, taking into account a range of factors including legal constraints, the business environment, and reputational concerns that can arise from public policy choices made by host countries,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary.

Former Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who both run private funds backed by the Saudis, were in attendance. JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and Goldman’s David Solomon spoke at the event along with Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman and investor Ray Dalio. FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried also spoke at the event. No one associated with the Biden Administration was in attendance as Washington is re-evaluating its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s economy is rapidly growing. The event is Prince Mohammed’s opportunity to show that the kingdom is ready to be seen as a financial powerhouse beyond its energy sector. The private sector is making it known that they are willing to invest in Saudi Arabia despite Washington’s reluctance.