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Remarks by Ambassador Miriam E. Sapiro at the U.S.-Egypt Business Council

Remarks by Ambassador Miriam E. Sapiro
Deputy United States Trade Representative

U.S.-Egypt Business Council
Washington, DC
January 17, 2012

*As Prepared for Delivery*

"I am absolutely delighted to be here to help welcome Minister Eissa so warmly and to reaffirm the U.S. Government’s strong support of the Egyptian people in their desire for greater economic opportunity and growth.

"We all realize this is a historic time for Egypt, with the promise of tremendous change and opportunity. It would have seemed scarcely possible a year ago that, later this month, Egypt will have a democratically elected parliament and will be looking forward over the coming months to preparing for both constitutional reforms and the election of a new president.

"We know from experience, though, that successful democratic transitions rely not only on political reform, but also on broadening economic opportunity.

"Today, I want to say a few words on both the challenges and opportunities which I believe will emerge as Egypt pursues its drive to prosper in the global economy.

"Egypt's mix of geography, population, and resources makes it a natural hub for regional trade and commerce. According to at least one study, if Egypt strengthens its economic institutions now, and embraces economic modernization, it could be one of the top ten world economies within a generation.

"This will not come without effort, however. Egypt’s quest to stimulate its economy comes during one of the worst international downturns in recent history. It’s a time when the need for jobs and economic opportunities are on the minds of leaders everywhere, including in America.

"Ultimately, growth in Egypt will be led by the private sector’s ability to generate new demand for products and services in Egyptian markets and in foreign markets which buy from Egypt, including neighboring markets.

"As we in the United States know well, increased foreign trade and investment play a key role in stimulating growth.

"We also acknowledge that experience shows that economic growth is far likelier to be stimulated quickly and substantially through a country’s open trade and investment policies than through assistance.

"Looking around the world at countries that have seen dramatic growth, such as Brazil, India, and Turkey, we believe it is clear that deliberate integration into the global marketplace can help strengthen Egypt’s economic competitiveness and therefore its prospects for sustained growth.

"The United States stands ready to help. We are committed to a strategic economic partnership with Egypt and the MENA region, based on the shared objective of increasing the well-being of the Egyptian people and their neighbors. We hope to use our resources bilaterally, as well as leverage additional resources from like-minded countries and international institutions, to help Egypt boost its economy to a new level of development and growth.

"Our trade and investment strategy will be based on a two prong approach. One aspect is a short-term strategy for delivering concrete results for Egypt, quickly. The other aspect is a longer-term strategy which positions the countries in the region in a fundamentally different position vis-à-vis the global economy. Both are critical. We believe Egypt in particular can increase bilateral trade with the United States and other key markets and serve as a regional hub for manufacturing, trade, innovation and investment.

"Let me mention a few important steps we are taking:

"Multilaterally, as the chair for the G8 process for 2012, the United States is committed to making the best use of the Deauville Partnership to coordinate efforts related to the MENA region by major economies and the international financial institutions.

"Bilaterally, we are ready to work with our Egyptian counterparts to step up our joint work in such areas as SMEs, trade facilitation, services and investment, agriculture, good regulatory practices, as well as regional trade and investment arrangements to create more export opportunities and grow Egypt’s economy. We look forward to working with Minister Eissa to create a concrete bilateral Action Plan to achieve our shared goals.

"We would like to see Egyptian companies take greater advantage of existing programs that would benefit Egyptian exports to U.S. markets, such as the Globalized System of Preferences (GSP). These programs allow certain types of Egyptian goods to enter the U.S. duty-free, making it cheaper to “Buy Egyptian.”

"While Egypt exported over $50 million dollars worth of goods under GSP in 2010, some eligible products, as diverse as car parts, fruit juices, and carpets, were exported to the U.S. without claiming duty-free status.

"We will also be working actively with the Egyptian government and the private sector to help Egyptian companies of all sizes capitalize on global market opportunities.

"For example, next month -- on February 20 in Cairo -- we are collaborating with the AmCham, the US-Egypt Business Council, the Egyptian General Authority for Investments, the Federation of Egyptian Industries, and the Industrial Modernization Center on a Suppliers’ Conference.

"This event is aimed at pairing local Egyptian companies with U.S. firms working in the region, with the aim of showing Egyptian businesses how they might become part of the supply chains of major U.S. corporations.

"Then in April, the US Trade & Development Agency -- in collaboration with our US & Foreign Commercial Service and the Egyptian Government -- will host in Cairo workshops on the ICT and energy sectors, as follow up to the highly successful “Egypt Forward Conference” held in Washington, DC last June.

"And as always, the Commerce Department’s Commercial Service is recruiting Egyptian buyers to participate in delegations to trade shows in the United States. This year the Commercial Service is actively recruiting for 12 separate events.

"Finally, while official assistance cannot substitute for the efforts of the private sector -- properly targeted, it can mobilize other resources, support infrastructure development, and otherwise complement private sector initiatives.

"Our goal is to promote trade, investment and innovation to help create jobs, and assist Egyptian businesses increase and diversify their activities as the surest path to increased prosperity throughout Egypt.

"But it will be companies and entrepreneurs like all of you, from Egypt, countries throughout the region and the world, who will play the largest role in the ongoing transformation of the Egyptian economy.

"Increased cooperation between our private sectors will help Egypt jumpstart its economy and develop its huge potential as a center of regional and global trade. Most importantly, it can expand economic and other opportunities for all Egyptians.

"The United States stands ready to do all it can to help Egypt develop its private sector, encourage US firms to participate fully in Egypt’s economic growth, and support an economic foundation for the Egyptian-American partnership that will remain strong and durable for years to come."