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The New Arab

Saudi crown prince to meet Hollywood, Silicon Valley figures in US

After several days of diplomatic discussions, MbS will meet with industry figures across America [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 March, 2018

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Mohammed bin Salman's schedule for his first official US visit outlines his business focus and grandiose forays into film and technology congruent with his Vision 2030 reform programme
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will focus predominantly on business interests during his maiden voyage to the US in the capacity as Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, it has been reported.

His two-and-half week US tour - which begins on Tuesday - includes meetings with an array of prominent figures from the technology and film industries.

Among those due to meet the crown prince is Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, as well as directors of Facebook, Uber, Google and others.

Bin Salman is set to arrive in Washington DC on Tuesday with President Donald Trump hosting the crown prince for a welcome lunch, according to US sources.

He is also touted to attend dinners hosten by vice-President Mike Pence and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster over three days of official meetings in Washington.

Rumours suggest that McMaster may soon be ousted from the White House, amid President Trump's dramatic hiring-and-firing spree of late. 

It is still unclear whether the Saudi prince will meet newly-appointed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is considered closer to Saudi Arabia on key regional issues than his predecessor Rex Tillerson, particularly regarding the blockade of Qatar and the Iran nuclear deal.

The first few days of bin Salman's trip are expected to focus on the deluge of regional issues such as the war in Yemen, the Iranian nuclear deal and potentially Washington's long-awaited Israel-Palestine peace plan, dubbed the "deal of the century" by Trump.

Just as in the UK, protesters in New York City and elsewhere have held rallies denouncing Saudi Arabia's "blood-soaked" military operation in Yemen, using the hashtag #SaudiPrinceNotWelcome.

Hopes that the GCC crisis might be resolved during bin Salman's visit were dashed when the prince compared the diplomatic spat to the US embargo on Cuba.

He warned, during his recent visit to Egypt, that the blockade on Qatar "could last a long time".

US sources have speculated that bin Salman may head to New York on Friday to attend business meetings and a US-Saudi forum.

The rest of the trip is likely to include visits to Boston, Seattle, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Houston, allowing the ambitious prince to meet a vast network of the US' most prominent business leaders.

According to sources, the young royal will visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University campuses while on the East Coast, and rub shoulders with tech and Hollywood elites in California.

During his visit to Los Angeles, US sources say bin Salman will encourage investments in the kingdom, who under his leadership lifted a 35-year-long ban on cinemas and pledged investments of $500m in Hollywood.

The young leader has also been heavily investing in the entertainment sector at home to encourage a surge in domestic spending amid troubling economic woes.

These reforms have coincided with a crackdown on potential opposition and the jailing of many of Saudi Arabia's leading royals and business figures.

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