Dutch finance minister joins Saudi conference boycott

Dutch finance minister joins Saudi conference boycott
3 min read
18 October, 2018
The Netherlands finance minister became the latest big name to announce they will not attend an investment conference in Riyadh.
The Netherlands' finance minister is the latest name to withdraw from the conference [Getty]
The Netherlands' finance minister became the latest government official to boycott a major investment conference in Riyadh, following an announcement on Thursday by the Dutch government.

Wopke Hoekstra pulled out of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, due take place next week, following the "very serious" disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"The disappearance of #Khashoggi is a very serious matter. Saudi Arabia has not yet been able to provide any clarification," Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said on Twitter.

"That is why we decided @WBHoekstra will not travel to Riyadh today. The Netherlands stands for press freedom, worldwide."

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire also announced on Thursday he will not attend the conference.

"I won't go to Riyadh next week," Le Maire told France's Public Senat TV channel.

He said that "the current circumstances do not allow me to go to Riyadh", echoing President Emmanuel Macron's remarks last week on Khashoggi's disappearance.

Le Maire is one of the first senior Western officials to pull out of the 23 and 25 October FII in Riyadh.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will decide on Thursday whether to attend but several big entrepreneurs and media groups have already pulled out of the conference organised by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund.

The boycott comes after Khashoggi - who was living in self-imposed exile in the US - vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Turkish intelligence have claimed he was murdered and dismembered in the consulate by a hit squad which arrived from Riyadh - claims denied by the Saudi government.

On Wednesday, IMF chief Christine Lagarde's office said she would not be attending the conference.

The boycott of next week's Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh will be a huge embarrassment for Prince Mohammed, who has tried to model himself as a reformer and encourage outside investment into Saudi Arabia.

The trail leading to Riyadh into the investigation of Khashoggi's suspected murder has also tarnished the reputation of the crown prince, who has established strong support in the west for his economic reform programme.

Among those shunning the Riyadh conference, according to official confirmations or reports by Bloomberg News and CNBC among others:

Finance

  • HSBC chief executive John Flint
  • Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam
  • MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga

HSBC, Credit Suisse and MasterCard are listed among the eight "strategic partners" of the conference. Another is Siemens, whose boss Joe Kaeser is reportedly still coming.

  • JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon 
  • BlackRock chief Larry Fink
  • Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman
  • Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters

Industry / Technology

  • Ford chairman Bill Ford 
  • Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi 
  • British billionaire Richard Branson 
  • Thrive CEO Ariana Huffington 
  • Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene

Media

  • Viacom CEO Bob Bakish