Davos in the Desert: Kushner, Mnuchin & others to attend from US

After many notables skipped out in 2018, Saudi financial conference later this month will feature major business names.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, centre, are expected to attend the Saudi investment conference next week [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, centre, are expected to attend the Saudi investment conference next week [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

    United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and presidential adviser Jared Kushner will lead Washington's delegation to an annual financial conference in Saudi Arabia, government sources told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

    The conference comes one year after US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, prompting a global outcry.

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    US State Department Iran adviser Brian Hook and Kushner adviser Avi Berkowitz also plan to attend the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, a senior administration official told Reuters.

    Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who is due to step down on December 1, will also travel to the Gulf for the occasion, a second government source said.

    Perry has held a series of private talks with Saudi officials, including former Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, on the use of US technology to build civilian nuclear power plants in the kingdom.

    Kushner will attend the conference after leading a delegation to Israel. Mnuchin's plans were first reported by business site Quartz.

    'What's next for global business?'

    The conference - nicknamed "Davos in the Desert" - seeks to draw global investment banks and financiers to interact with Saudi officials and drum up investment for projects in the region. It will be held from October 29 to 31 at the Ritz Carlton in the capital.

    Last year, executives including JP Morgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Motor Co Chairman Bill Ford pulled out of the conference after Khashoggi's October 2 disappearance.

    The incident led to US Treasury sanctions on 17 Saudi individuals and a Senate resolution blaming Saudi Arabia's crown prince. But Saudi officials - including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - later blamed Khashoggi's death and reported dismemberment on rogue officials.

    According to a draft narrative programme obtained by American news site Axios, President of the World Bank David Malpass will attend this year, where the theme of the gathering asks the question "What's next for global business?"

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are also on the list.

    Among the financiers listed on the conference schedule are the CEOS of Citigroup, Credit Suisse and HSBC, in addition to Ray Dalio of Bridgewater, Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone, Larry Fink of BlackRock and Daniel Loeb of Third Point.

    As he courts funders for Vision Fund 2, Masayoshi Son of SoftBank is on the programme as well.

    Although many of its journalists are listed as panel moderators, Bloomberg told Axios that the organisation will only be covering news at the conference and is "not sponsoring the event or participating".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies