Economics and Trade High on the Agenda at the U.S.-Egypt Strategic Dialogue
Despite the prominence of security concerns in a tumultuous Middle East, talks between a United States delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry and its Egyptian counterparts focused also on economic development and trade.
Trade between the two countries amounted to $7.9 billion in 2014, up from $6.8 billion in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Bilateral trade through May of this year totaled $2.8 billion.
“The strategic relationship between our countries is centered around opportunities, not threats,” said Kerry, in Cairo on August 2, at the conclusion of the talks. “The stronger and the more prosperous Egypt is, the better able it will be to counter the dangers posed by extremism.”
Kerry went on to congratulate Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi for taking steps to restore investor confidence, to stabilize finances, and to improve the business environment in Egypt. He added he expected Egypt’s economy to reach a growth rate of seven percent, the rate that prevailed before political turmoil rocked the country, or even better, to double digits.
Kerry also supported al-Sisi’s moves to phase out energy subsidies, promote tax reform, and streamline business startup processes.
The Secretary of State proposed five steps the U.S. is willing to take to help the Egyptian economy. First, is to better attract capital.
“Last year, American companies invested more than $2 billion in Egypt, which represents about one fifth of all the foreign direct investment in the country,” Kerry noted. “Our firms are actually poised to do even more.” To that end, the U.S. will be providing technical help to the Egyptian Competition Authority. The U.S. will also renew bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement later in August.
Second, the U.S. will help Egypt strengthen intellectual property safeguards. Third, the governments will collaborate to support small and medium-sized businesses to create jobs.
“We hope to expand the amount of products manufactured in the Qualifying Industrial Zones, which last year supported more than $800 million in Egyptian exports to America and supported the creation of some 300,000 jobs,” said Kerry.
Fourth, the U.S. wants to help Egypt develop and implement a comprehensive energy strategy. Finally, the U.S. wants to work with Egypt to improve institutions of governance and support political reform.
“Good governance is the single most important platform for any country’s success in the 21st century,” said Kerry. “It’s more vital than oil or precious minerals or a deep water port. We are not suggesting we have all the answers. But we are engaged in a pretty open process of working at our own process to develop ongoing reform.”