(MENAFN - Arab News) The burgeoning Saudi-American trade ties received a big boost with the world's most famous pharmaceutical industry leader, Pfizer, deciding to set up its new manufacturing plant at the King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh, about 130 km north of Jeddah.
The groundbreaking and foundation-laying ceremony was attended by Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Gov. Abdulatif Al-Othman; Mohannad Hilal, secretary-general of Economic Cities Authority, senior government officials, diplomats and senior global and regional management personnel of Pfizer led by Guy Lallemand, Bulent Atlig, Keith Dennie and Hussein El-Hakim.
The 32,000 square meter plant will be operational in 2015. At the total production capacity of 18 million packs per year, the facility will produce a broad range of Pfizer's medicines currently supplied to the Kingdom. The development will also facilitate the transfer of Pfizer's expertise to the local market, ensuring production meets Pfizer's rigorous and globally recognized quality standards.
At a reception at the Jeddah Hilton on Wednesday, US Consul General Anne S. Casper was thrilled by the arrival of Pfizer in the Kingdom.
"It was Jabir bin Hayyan, a Muslim scientist in the 8th century who is credited for introducing a new approach to alchemy based on controlled laboratory experimentation - and has been called 'the father of chemistry.'
Therefore, how appropriate and how auspicious that today, Pfizer has laid the foundation for its very first pharmaceutical plant, here in this very region, the region that originated this field of study," she said amid a loud applause.
She said commercial ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States have been the anchor of the overall bilateral relationship for more than half a century.
"Looking broadly, Saudi Arabia is the United States' largest trading partner in the Middle East and was ranked last November, as our ninth largest trading partner worldwide," she said. "Today, our business relationship is diversifying far beyond the energy sector into many different fields, including medical and health care related industries."
She described the Pfizer groundbreaking event as an important milestone in the very robust commercial and economic relationship between the two countries.
"I am confident that Pfizer's initiative will be successful and that KAEC will continue to attract strong US investment," she said.
SAGIA's Al-Othman said Saudi Arabia was set to transform the economy.
"While the government is focused on encouraging, attracting and facilitating world-class inward investment, especially in knowledge-based and life science industries being a top economic priority, we are sending a very strong and positive message to the world - that Saudi Arabia is set to transform the economy and its infrastructure to host and support knowledge-based industry leaders and manufactures like Pfizer," said Al-Othman.
"Pfizer's decision and commitment to set up its first-ever manufacturing facility in the GCC in Saudi Arabia is a clear signal that SAGIA's vision to make Saudi Arabia a major hub between the East and West is attainable," he said.
Pfizer's new manufacturing facility will be instrumental in providing Saudi patients with improved access to Pfizer broad portfolio of medicines. It will also contribute to the commercial and economic development of the national economy together with to creating new employment opportunities for skilled talents.
Keith Dennie, Pfizer's vice president for operations, said the manufacturing facility will enhance Pfizer's presence and operations in the Kingdom. "The new facility will serve the growing needs of the Kingdom, now and in the future," said Dennie. "This is the first such partnership that Pfizer has established in the GCC and one that we hope is a foundation for the future."
Guy Lallemand, regional president, Africa and Middle East, worldwide BioPharmaceutical business, said the new Pfizer plant is by Saudis and for Saudis. "Once the production begins at the plant, it will help in making medicine available more quickly in the Kingdom," he said.
Hussein El-Hakim, country manager, Pfizer Saudi Arabia, was upbeat. "For us, investing in setting up a world-class manufacturing facility in Saudi Arabia is not only a rewarding business opportunity, but also a commitment to the health and wellbeing of the people of Saudi Arabia."
Fahd Al-Rasheed, MD & CEO of King Abdullah Economic City said that the city has become a hub for many global and local companies.
"Healthcare sector is of a special interest to us owing to the quality new jobs it creates, its direct reflection on people health and citizens wellbeing" added Al-Rasheed.