New travel restrictions may hurt US-Saudi trade ties

New travel restrictions

The enhanced security checks issued in response to the botched bombing of a Detroit bound flight may be discouraging Saudis from traveling to the US. The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued new security directives for passengers traveling to the US via or from 14 countries following the unsuccessful attempt by Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas day. Abdulmutallab failed to detonate explosives sewed into his underwear on the flight hailing from the Netherlands. The fourteen countries included in the TSA's list are Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. "Clearly it's not going to help trade or business relations between US and Saudi Arabia," Saudi Businessman Ahmed Egal told The Media Line. "It will not be easy for Saudi businessmen to travel." "Saudi businessmen and students had to go through a difficult procedure to get US visas even before," he said. "To the extent that a large number of Saudi students who would traditionally go to the United States have now been going to Europe, Canada and Australia." "Many Saudi businessmen were extremely frustrated by the delays and were sometimes denied visas to go to the United States," Egal said. "As a consequence they directed their sourcing to other countries in Europe and Asia." "As far as I'm concerned traveling to the US is just out of limits," he continued. "Either my US counterparts come to the region or we do business with companies in Europe and Asia." A TSA statement read that "every individual flying into the US from anywhere in the world from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening." Economic analysts are questioning the inclusion of Saudi Arabia, as it is one of the few countries on the list with which the US maintains close political and economic ties. Iran, Syria, Cuba and Sudan are all on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. The US is directly or covertly involved in military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen, while relations with Libya, though thawing as of late, still remain cool. Influential Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran author of the blog Saudi Jeans said the new regulations would have varying effects on Saudis studying in the US. "It won't affect the students already there," Omran told The Media Line. "But it will create problems for newcomers or for those who travel back and fourth a lot."