Saudi Arabia: Bilateral Relations to Germany Saudi Arabia

08.01.2019 - Article

Political relations

Bilateral relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia were formalised as early as 1929 by the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between Germany and the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd. This was three years before the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was proclaimed. Germany has maintained diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 1954. As in other Arab nations, Germany is held in high regard in Saudi Arabia.

At the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel last held talks with the Saudi Arabian leadership in Jeddah on 30 April 2017. This marked her third trip to Saudi Arabia following visits in 2007 and 2010. In September 2018, Foreign Ministers Heiko Maas and Adel Al-Jubeir agreed to expand and deepen the traditionally good relations, thus ending a diplomatic dispute on statements made by former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Saudi Arabian foreign policy. There are frequent visits to Saudi Arabia by members of the German Cabinet, Members of the German Bundestag and delegations from Germany’s Länder, as well as visits to Germany by Saudi Arabian officials.

Economic relations

Saudi Arabia is Germany’s second most important Arab trading partner after the United Arab Emirates. For its part, Germany is the fourth-largest supplier of Saudi Arabian imports. Saudi Arabia imports German products and services on a large scale. Germany’s main exports to Saudi Arabia are machinery, motor vehicles, chemical products and electrical, precision engineering and optical goods. In 2017, German exports to Saudi Arabia were worth 6.6 billion euros (-9.6% compared with 2016), while Saudi Arabian exports to Germany totalled 803 million euros (+28.7% compared with 2016).

Saudi Arabia will remain an interesting market for German companies. Industrial diversification and renewable energies are key issues in Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 reform programme and National Transformation Programme 2020, and these are core areas of German expertise. This means that there are good prospects for greater economic cooperation between the two countries. An investment protection agreement has been in place since 1999.

Through the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (MODON), Saudi Arabia offers a range of incentives to encourage foreign companies to invest and create jobs in the country. Foreign companies and joint ventures are required to employ a certain percentage of Saudi Arabian nationals.

The German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs (GESALO) in Riyadh has represented German business interests in the country since 1978. Launched in 1975, the Saudi-German Joint Economic Commission comprises representatives of the two countries’ governments and business communities.

Cultural relations 

Cultural relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia were not established until fairly recently. Cultural cooperation is based on an intergovernmental agreement that entered into force on 2 April 2006. There are German schools in Jeddah and Riyadh and a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) lecturer at King Saud University in Riyadh, which also offers a degree in German-Arabic Translation. A number of Saudi Arabian students take advantage of the opportunity to attend summer courses in Germany. Around 1150 students from Saudi Arabia are currently studying in Germany with the help of a grant from the Saudi Government.

The German Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah hold concerts, lectures, exhibitions and film screenings, thus enabling Saudi Arabians to become acquainted with German culture. The Vision 2030 reform programme also provides for an expansion of cultural activities in Saudi Arabia and the opening up of Saudi Arabian culture and society. In 2017, the Saudi Arabian Government lifted a ban on concerts and cinemas. It is also promoting sports for the general public, in particular for girls and women. In addition, since January 2018, women have been allowed to enter sports stadiums.

In 2016, Germany was the guest of honour at Saudi Arabia’s biggest cultural event, the Al Janadriyah Heritage and Cultural Festival, held under the patronage of King Salman. A Goethe-Institut, which so far only offers language classes, was opened in Riyadh in May 2014. It moved into its own building in 2016. In other parts of the country, the opportunities to learn German outside King Saud University’s German programme are limited to a few individual initiatives, as well as private tuition and distance learning. German is not offered as a foreign language at schools providing general education.

The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and Philipps-Universität Marburg are active in Saudi Arabia with excavations at Tayma and an underwater project near Jeddah. They are working closely with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) on these Projects.


This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.


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