Sweden May Lose Gulf Allies Over Saudi Spat

Sweden May Lose Gulf Allies Over Saudi Spat

HELSINKI and ABU DHABI — Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s socialist-led government has come under a torrent of criticism from local political and corporate quarters after his administration decided not to negotiate a fresh five-year defense-industrial trade agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the diplomatic tensions between the two nations may lead to the Scandinavian government losing more allies around the Arabian Gulf, Mideast-based experts have warned.

Stockholm’s decision, which has been roundly castigated by Sweden’s leading corporate chiefs for potentially damaging the country’s trade relations with Arab nations, surfaced amid a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia that culminated in the Middle Eastern state recalling its Ambassador to Sweden, Saad bin Ibrahim al-Brahim, March 11.

On March 6, 31 of Sweden’s leading captains of industry, including Volvo, fashion chain H&M’s chairman Stefan Persson and bank group SEB’s CEO Annika Falkengren, petitioned the government to negotiate a new defense-industrial agreement in order to safeguard Swedish exports and business interests among Arab nations.

In a joint statement, business leaders urged the government not to walk away from talks. “Without trade, Sweden will lose the opportunity to make its voice heard in a globalized world, and to achieve real change.”

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