April 2019 Chairman’s Message

Dear ABGR Colleagues,

We will soon welcome our new Ambassador General John Abizaid, recently confirmed by the Senate by an overwhelmingly positive 92-7 vote.  Gen. Abizaid is currently in Washington in training for his new responsibilities, planning to arrive circumstances permitting as early as May 1.  

We have been blessed in the meanwhile by the capable leadership of Ambassador Christopher Henzel and Deputy Chief of Mission Martina Strong; Amb. Henzel will soon assume his new post as Ambassador to Yemen (always based in the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh), and DCM Strong and her husband John have demonstrated their interest in and commitment to support our local American business community.

The U.S. Embassy celebrated our American National Day on May 10, supported by the ABGR and various of our corporate members, featuring the Marine Honor Guard and inspiring presentation by Ambassador/Chargé d’Affaires Henzel. 

Since my last report, we have participated in or hosted the following events.

March 24-29, Middle East Council of American Chambers of Commerce (MECACC) Annual Doorknock.  We participated along with fellow AmCham representatives from Jeddah, Eastern Province, Kuwait, Bahrain and Doha in advocating for business-friendly policies on Capitol Hill and in various Administration agencies, focusing on trade, competitiveness, tax and regional partnership issues, in the face of serious challenges to our relationship with Saudi Arabia and other GCC partners. High points of the visit included some 100 meetings on Capitol Hill with members of key committees and their staffs, meeting in the West Wing with our long time champion Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, a conference hosted by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, meeting with Bob Manougue and his Economic Affairs team at the State Department, and with Khush Choksy and his Middle East and Tax teams at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  We reached out in particular to Democratic majority members in the House serving on key committees involved in trade and foreign affairs, and made some inroads in the face of controversy currently surrounding the U.S./Saudi relationship.

March 28 – 29, Annual ABGR-AMEX Golf Tournament.  Tom Merkel, Tarik Solomon and their Golf Committee have once again organized a very successful annual Golf Tournament, including an Awards Dinner hosted by the U.S. Embassy.  We depend heavily on this event to support our initiatives on behalf of our members, and were pleased but not surprised that Tom and his team came through once again with flying colors.

Upcoming events include:

  • April 17, Defense & Security Committee.  Chairman Kevin Darnell will host a meeting for members active in these sectors.
  • April 24, Annual Business Networking Dinner, hosted by California Resort and Arizona Golf Resort on Wednesday, April 24th from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. 
  • April 29,  General Membership Meeting with Stephen Renna, Executive Director of Advocacy Centre at U.S Department of Commerce, place TBD, 7 am.
  • July 31, Embassy Ambassadors Panel, hosted by the Embassy of the Netherlands, featuring Ambassador of the Netherlands Joost.Reintjes, Ambassador of Singapore Lawrence Anderson and Ambassador of Sweden Jan Knutsson.

If you are interested in joining our Infrastructure, Defense & Security, Finance, ACME or Legal Committees please let me know, and I will make the appropriate introductions.

Our year will be coming to an end in June, and with it my term as ABGR Chair; it has been an honor to serve our great American business community, and continue to support the organization going forward under new leadership.  I remain Chairman of the Middle East Council of Chambers of Commerce (MECACC), and look forward to ever bigger and better things for our community and our corporate and individual members.


Christopher H. Johnson

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About the Author

Chris Johnson

Active in the Kingdom since 1978, Chris Johnson is the founding partner of Johnson & Pump/Al-Sharif Law Office, based in Riyadh. chris@alshariflaw.com +966-11-462-5925