Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to be here in Riyadh today and to be able to participate in this press conference with members of the EU business delegation, representing over 40 agri-food companies from right across the Union.
I want, at the outset, to reiterate my appreciation to all those who made this mission happen, especially the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Saudi Embassy in Brussels and the Council of Saudi Chambers.
I also want to thank the members of the business delegation who are participating in this mission. This is one in a series of such missions that I have led to various parts of the world and the level of interest in participating in such missions always exceeds that which we can accommodate. I am pleased to be joined by many familiar faces but I'm particularly pleased that we have been able to facilitate a number who have not had the opportunity to join us on previous occasions.
This morning, we attended the business event "Doing Business in Saudi Arabia" and, in the course of my remarks, I pointed out that the members of our business delegation are sector leaders who are capable of ensuring sustainable presence on the Saudi market across a range of products areas.
We know the value of the Saudi market, with EU agri-food exports having increased from €1.5 billion to €4.6 billion between 2009 and 2016. This is a positive trend and I am confident that, building on this mission, we can further increase the value of EU exports to this region.
As businesspeople, you must be in tune with the wishes of your customers and we know that Saudi customers are well informed and demanding and that is as it should be. Working together with the business delegation, my objective is to highlight that EU products are safe, healthy and provide both recognised quality for consumers as well as reliable raw materials for the rapidly growing domestic food processing sector here in Saudi Arabia.
I have a very full political programme while I am here in Riyadh and the business delegation has an equally full complementary programme. I hope that this mission will yield mutually beneficial results for businesses both here in Saudi Arabia and in Europe. I will certainly do my part to assist our businesses in whatever constructive way I can and so I wish the business delegates on both the Saudi and European sides a successful few days and I look forward to hearing positive outcomes as a lasting legacy to such an important mission.