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Map of Saudi Arabia

Map of Saudi Arabia.
flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Bilateral relationship

NewZealand established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1977. Saudi Arabia. Since this time New Zealand Government efforts to build on this bilateral relationship have underpinned NewZealand's economic and trade interests in the Kingdom. In the year to December 2008, New Zealand exported NZ$729 million worth of products (mainly dairy and meat) to Saudi Arabia, making it our most significant export market in the Middle East and 16th overall. It is also a significant supplier of oil and gas to NewZealand, accounting for 50 percent of New Zealand’s imports (NZ$550 million) from the Kingdom in the year to December 2008.

NewZealand signed a cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia in January 2001. The agreement encourages trade and technical cooperation, and established a mechanism, through a Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC), for government and private sectors to meet on a regular basis. The inaugural session of the JMC was held in Wellington in June 2002. The second session was held in Riyadh on 21 March 2006 with the third took place in July 2008 in Wellington.

More recently, education linkages between the Kingdom and New Zealand have brought the bilateral relationship to new levels, with the first intake of Saudi students from the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme (KASP) attending New Zealand tertiary institutions in 2006. By 2008 there were 4100 Saudi students studying in New Zealand. New Zealand is also involved in investigating ways to assist the Saudi government with educational reform including curriculum development, technical vocation and in-country training. Further education linkages continue to be developed. In April 2009 a Cooperation Arrangement was signed between Polytechnics International New Zealand (PINZ) and Saudi Arabia’s Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), and in July 2009 the New Zealand Ministry of Education signed an Educational and Scientific Co-operation Arrangement with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Higher Education. In 2008 it is estimated that the annual value to the New Zealand economy of Saudi students studying in New Zealand tertiary institutions was $NZ500 million.

Saudi Arabia has announced that it is temporarily suspending the KASP intake for 2010 (incl to Australia, UK and Canada) while it undertakes a review. It is expected that the KASP will restart in 2011.

Saudi Arabia’s rapidly growing population and increasing affluence together with the development of more sophisticated retail outlets make it a good target market for New Zealand. Considerable interest has been expressed by         New Zealand firms in Saudi Arabia, which has the largest and most populated economy among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Economists see Saudi Arabia as the next big opportunity in the region, especially in the building and construction sector.

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait.

New Zealand is currently negotiating a Free Trade Arrangement with the GCC states. Five rounds of negotiations have been completed with a sixth round to be held in New Zealand in October 2009.

Since 1 July 1999, GCC nationals, including from Saudi Arabia, have not required visas to visit New Zealand for visits of up to 90 days.

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Key facts


Official Name - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Land Area - 2,149,690 sq km
Population - 28.2 million (July 2008 estimate). (5.6 million are non Saudi nationals, July 2008 estimate)
Capital City - Riyadh
Religion - Islam (About 85% of the population are Sunni Muslim, and most Saudis belong to the strictly orthodox Wahhabi sect. Shi'a Muslims, located in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, represent 15% of the population.) Religions other than Islam, and their symbols, are prohibited by Saudi law.
Language - Arabic
Currency - Saudi Riyal (SAR) = 100 halalas
Exchange Rate - US$1 = SR3.745 (fixed)


Political system - Absolute Monarchy
National government - Council of Ministers, headed by the king, as president of the Council and Prime Minister, and a deputy prime minister. The Council of Ministers exercises both legislative and executive powers
National legislature - There is no elected legislature. A Consultative Council (Majlis Ash-Shura) was appointed in August 1992 as a 60 seat assembly to operate as an advisory body. Its membership was expanded in 1997 and again in 2001, and now consists of 150 members drawn from the elite of the religious, business, legal, government and academic communities. The King has the right to dissolve it. All members of the Majlis Ash-Shura are male; however there are six female advisors.
Head of State and Government - King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz Al-Saud succeeded to the throne following the death of his brother Fahd bin Abdel-Aziz Al-Saud, in August 2005. The powers and duties of the King are defined by the Basic Law and Sharia (Islamic) law, which is also the ultimate arbiter of all government activities
Main political parties - Political parties are not permitted.


GDP - US$471.9 billion (2008 EIU estimate)
Real GDP growth - 4.2 % (2008 EIU estimate)
Exports - US$309.8 billion (2008 EIU estimate)
Imports - US$108.3 billion (2008 EIU estimate)
Current account balance - US$128.0 billion (2008 EIU estimate)
Inflation - 9.9% (2008)
Total External debt - US$75.4 billion (2008 EIU estimate)

New Zealand Trade

NZ Exports (FOB) - NZ$729.3 million (for year to December 2008)
Main Exports - Milk and cream (NZ$321.1 million); Butter (NZ$98.8 million); Meat (NZ$98.3 million); Cheese (NZ$62.9 million); Wood/fibreboard/joinery (NZ$53.1 million); Malt/Barley (NZ$19.1 million)
NZ Imports (CIF) - NZ$549.8 million (for year to December  2008)
Main Imports - Fertilizer (NZ$209.2 million); Crude oil (NZ$190.4 million); Petroleum gas (NZ$92.5 million); Polymers of ethylene (NZ$44 million).

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New Zealand Ministerial visits to Saudi-Arabia

Saudi-Arabia Ministerial visits to New Zealand


New Zealand is reprersented in Saudi Arabia by:

  • The New Zealand Embassy in Riyadh [external link].
  • New Zealand Trade and Enterprise representation is at the New Zealand Consulate-General in Dubai.
  • In 1987 Sheikh Raouf Abu Zinadeh was appointed New Zealand Honorary Consul in Jeddah.

    Saudi Arabia is represented in New Zealand by:

  • The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Canberra is cross-accredited to NewZealand.
  • In late 2009 Saudi Arabia will open a Consulate-General and Education- Cultural office in Auckland.
  • Travel advice

    The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Saudi Arabia [external link].

    Enquiries may be directed to Consular Division at the following numbers: telephone: +64 4 439 8000; fax: +64 4 439 8532.

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    Page last updated: Monday, 09 December 2013 13:00 NZDT