Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk
March 23, 2010
American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt
*As Prepared for Delivery*
"It's a pleasure to visit Egypt and to have the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon.
"First, on behalf of USTR and U.S. businesses in this region, let me thank Gamal Moharam for his leadership and commitment as President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.
"This is my first visit to the Middle East region since taking office as U.S. Trade Representative a little over a year ago.
"It was important for me to begin my exploration of the region in Egypt.
"Egypt is, first of all, a big economy, and a significant U.S. trading partner. Some 80 million people now reside in Egypt, each with the purchasing power of $5,400.
"The United States is interested in doing more to build up the commercial ties between our countries.
"We want to make sure that our bilateral trade and investment flows as smoothly as possible, and that this aspect of our relationship mirrors the important political and strategic ties that bind our countries.
"As we all know, security-related issues can dominate conversations about the Middle East.
"But those issues do not exist in a vacuum.
"By working together to foster prosperity, we can also lay the seeds of greater peace. And increased trade is a proven path to a brighter economic future.
"As President Obama has said many times, "Open trade improves creates jobs and improves the lives of all."
"In his Cairo speech last June, the President outlined America's commitment to supporting the aspirations of the people of the Middle East - particularly its young people - for peace, freedom, and greater economic opportunity.
"And I don't have to tell this gathering that commerce and industry have a central role to play in helping people achieve a better life and ensuring future stability throughout the Middle East.
"New jobs and opportunities are one of the best counters to radical extremism.
"So America is dedicated to developing jobs and opportunities in this region.
"The United States stands ready to help as your country and others work to form long-term partnerships that further integrate this region into the global economy. And we are eager to be a partner to economic development.
"We are keenly aware that today's business environment is more fiercely competitive than ever. We welcome global competition as vitally beneficial to American producers as well as consumers.
"Egyptians, too, have demonstrated that you possess the determination and skill to compete successfully and to uplift your society, despite the painful stresses of adjusting to today's globally-integrating economy, as have many of your neighbors.
"As I said, Egypt is my first stop in the Middle East and for good reason: as AmCham members have stated often, this country is increasingly seen by businesses as a growing market in its own right and as a vital commercial hub for the Middle East and Africa regions.
"In my view, American business can play critical role in Egypt and across this part of the world to advance economic reform and promote prosperity.
"Trade, whether regional or global, lowers prices for consumer goods, improves human welfare and quality of life, and most importantly, creates jobs.
"American-owned businesses alone have created 1,000,000 jobs in Egypt. You have created several times that many across the Arab world. And you have generated billions of dollars of economic activity.
"I also want to acknowledge another positive role U.S. business plays here - encouraging corporate social responsibility.
"For evidence of this, I have to look no further than the members of this organization itself. Each of your companies is working to foster effective and mutually beneficial relationships with the communities in which you are located.
"AmCham Egypt has raised funds for drug prevention programs, purchased badly-needed medical equipment for local hospitals and worked tirelessly to help children who have lost their families.
"The Obama Administration has affirmed that trade policy and the strengthening of the global trading system will play key roles in the rebalancing of the world economy that must occur in order to ensure a stable and balanced global prosperity.
"The President has also said repeatedly that full recovery of the American economy depends on a revival of international trade. That is equally true for the economies of the broader Middle East.
"The Middle East, with its young and growing population, will be one of the natural focuses of the Administration's efforts to promote international trade and commercial engagement.
"The Administration has reiterated its commitment to economic engagement with the Middle East. As President Obama has said, "education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century" and, as such, he has proposed new initiatives to expand cooperation with the Muslim world in areas such as science and entrepreneurship.
"I am encouraged that both the U.S. and Egyptian governments view greater economic cooperation as a strategic objective.
"In May of last year, Minister Rachid and I signed a new agreement, the "Strategic Economic Dialogue on Trade-Related and Investment issues."
"And the Minister and I agreed to work together in resolving our differences in seven core areas, including Trade Facilitation, Agriculture, Services, IPR, Investment, Labor, and the Environment.
"One of my principal purposes in coming to Egypt was to engage more intensively with the Prime Minister, Minister Rachid and other key members of the government so that the Partnership can begin to deliver tangible results of benefit to both sides.
"As we contemplate our next steps, my U.S colleagues and I expect to be coming back to you often for advice and support.
"We've seen a lot of progress in recent years, but clearly there is much more that can be done.
"We must continue to combat protectionist sentiment around the globe. There is no example in history of long term growth or prosperity resulting from a policy of protectionism and isolationism. We should not sacrifice long-term growth and progress for fear of competition.
"That growth will result not only from enforcement of the existing rules-based international system, but an expansion of trade opportunities.
"To that end, we must aggressively pursue the Doha round of world trade talks and we must continue all efforts to help more people bring home the benefits of trade.
"Developing countries are potentially large beneficiaries of an ambitious outcome to the Doha.
"According to a World Bank study, roughly half of global economic benefit from free trade would be enjoyed by developing countries.
"I believe that the United States and many nations in the Middle East share common goals of openness, democratic rights, peace and better jobs and a better future for our children. And I believe that American businesses are the most effective promoters of these ideals.
"We recognize that a future of shared opportunity and expanding prosperity nurtured by broad economic cooperation is the best strategy for peace, stability, and the triumph of hope in the Middle East and throughout the world.
"I appreciate your leadership in this region.
"Each of your businesses is having a profound impact and is improving peoples' lives. For that, for your dedication, and for your perseverance, I applaud you.
"Thank you very much. I am looking forward to hearing from you about your views on Egypt's economy, and the U.S.-Egypt trade relationship."