Foreign Policy

President Trump Says Saudi Arabia Sends $450 Billion To US. It Doesn't

The president made some false statements while talking about the U.S. response to Jamal Khashoggi's death. Here are the facts.

President Trump Says Saudi Arabia Sends $450 Billion To US. It Doesn't
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While reacting to Saudi Arabia admitting Jamal Khashoggi was dead, President Donald Trump called the indictments of 18 Saudi nationals a "good first step." Then, he brought up money flowing into the U.S. from various sales to Saudi Arabia.

"We have $450 billion, $110 billion of which is a military order, but this is equipment and various things ordered from Saudi Arabia. $450 billion. I think it's over a million jobs. That's not helpful for us to cancel an order like that."

A lot of what the president said there is either flat out wrong or misleading. 

First, his claim that $450 billion worth of orders from Saudi Arabia are in play. That's false. Neither the White House nor the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council responded to Politifact's request for information to back up that claim. An expert in the field told Politifact he doesn't know of any such tally.

Trump's talk of a $110 billion military order refers to a promise he and Saudi Arabia's King Salman signed last year. His point that a deal like that could be at jeopardy if he were to punish Saudi Arabia is sound, but we should offer some context about that number. 

There have only been about $14.5 billion in implemented sales from that deal. A roughly $13.5 billion deal the Saudis struck with Lockheed Martin is on shaky ground after the kingdom let a deadline pass to finalize it. 

As for the jobs: The U.S. Commerce Department estimates exports to Saudi Arabia supported 165,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2015. That year, the U.S. exported about $30 billion worth of goods and services to the kingdom. Using that math, a $110 billion arms deal would support about 600,000 jobs. But work on equipment made under the deal will happen in both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. 

Plus, experts say an arms deal worth more than $100 billion like this one will take years to implement, probably about a decade. Payments will happen in spurts over that period of time.

So, there's really nothing to support the president's claims of $450 billion and 1 million jobs. The $110 billion arms deal is legitimate, but a comparatively small amount of that is concrete orders.