The Group s history in the Gulf has been punctuated by a number of high-level encounters. The region s rulers have, of course, made numerous state visits to France over the years and high-ranking French politicians have often reciprocated with official visits to the Gulf region.

Mirroring this relationship, there have been many occasions when successive Paribas Presidents have welcomed Gulf State leaders in Paris and of course the Bank s top management have made a great many trips to the region.

Most of the Gulf States gained their independence in the early 1970s, and this geopolitical shift opened the door to the establishment of political and diplomatic relations with France. These were easily established, thanks to President Charles de Gaulle s positive policy towards Arab countries, a stance that remained unchanged by his successor, Georges Pompidou, during his time in office. This friendly relationship has long meant that France has been and continues to be favourably viewed in the region.

The strong political relations between the Gulf States and France have accompanied the development of close economic relations and partnerships, in which the BNP Paribas Group and its forerunner banks have played a significant role. From the 1970s onwards, France has looked to expand its export markets and also diversify its sources of oil, while the Gulf States, especially in the early days, needed to import heavy equipment and to recruit the expertise necessary to carry out their infrastructure projects. These complementary economic interests, very obvious from the beginning of the 1970s, blossomed further when the Group s constituent banks began to play an intermediary role on the international capital markets.

Prince Albert in the Gulf in 1967

Prince Albert of Belgium (later King Albert II) led two Belgian trade missions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in 1967, and returned to the region a decade later with further missions to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The Société Générale de Banque, a forerunner to BNP Paribas, took part in these missions, the purpose of which was to promote Belgian exports to the Gulf States.

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