American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt & The Egypt-US Business Council
Joint Mission to Washington and New York (February 10-14)
Mission Summary Report
As part of its continued efforts to maintain and foster a robust U.S.-Egypt relationship, AmCham Egypt and the Egypt-U.S. Business Council (EUSBC) organized a joint mission to Washington D.C. from February 10-14 , where they met with Members of Congress, Administration, think tanks, media and members of the business community. The AmCham-EUSBC delegation comprised twenty-five leading members of Egypt’s business community representing U.S. companies operating in Egypt as well as Egyptian companies engaged in trade, commerce and investment with the United States.
This mission coming at a pivotal time in the history of the bilateral relationship; where relations following the June 30th events were constantly changing; which made it an especially important time for a mission to Washington by Egypt’s private sector leaders to present their point of view on Egypt’s transition and to convey realities on the ground from the perspective of the private sector as well as overcoming and transcending differences that arise during this rocky transition period in Egypt’s history.
More than 50 meetings have been scheduled during that week. The delegation met with 28 prominent Members of Congress, including; Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Representatives Ed Royce (R-California) and other Members and key staffers for members of the Senate and House relevant Committees; including Foreign Relations, Ways and Means, Appropriations, Financial Services, Homeland Security as well as other Committees.
From the Administration, the delegation met with top officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of the Treasury, United States Trade Representative (USTR), the National Security Council (NSC), and USAID. The delegation also met with several think-tanks including; the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the American Security Project, Brookings Institute, Freedom House, Atlantic Council, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, CSIS and the Congressional Research Service-CRS. In addition, the delegation also met with Mr. Tom Friedman, the famous columnist at the New York Times. Unfortunately, a few meetings were cancelled on the mission's last day due to the snow storm that hit the east cost of the United States.
During their meetings, members of the delegation discussed the importance of the U.S.-Egypt relationship, the role of Egypt’s private sector throughout the transition, highlighting firsthand account of the realities taking place, the current economic situation, and how companies are addressing the immediate challenges facing the country today and yet operating profitably. The delegation also addressed ways in which Egypt and the United States can leverage their strategic relationship to create an environment conducive to economic development; looking at policies both governments can enact to enhance bilateral trade and promote U.S. investment in Egypt.
The delegation also discussed the interim government’s efforts and policies aimed at building greater business confidence, including; the injection of two stimulus packages geared towards encouraging investments in infrastructure projects, boosting the economy and creating employment opportunities. The delegation also made the case that the economy has seen some very positive signals; and for the first time since January 2011, Fitch ratings agency upgraded Egypt’s economic outlook and during the last quarter of 2013, the Egyptian Stock market had risen by 45%.
A common message among economists the delegation met with was that Egypt must renew its efforts at deep economic reform, and that aid from other Arab states is not sustainable in the long run and the need to push for an agreement in the near future with the IMF to offer added credibility to the reform process underway.
Delegates were asked about the prospects for increased economic stability following the current political transition. It was stressed that security and stability will lead to economic prosperity and members pointed out their endorsement of the government’s measures to control violence and fight terror. Other questions focused on the political situation, the country’s leading candidates in the presidential elections, the upcoming parliamentary elections and the security situation in general.
The active engagements in dialogue were both important and productive.
The delegation also met with Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt’s Ambassador to the United States; where he briefed them on the general sentiment in Washington towards Egypt as well as the Embassy’s efforts to portray the Egyptian side’s point of view with regards to events following June 30th.
On February 11th, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted a special lunch in honor of Egypt’s Minister of Industry and Trade Mounir Abdel Nour. The event was attended by more than 250 guests, including U.S. government officials and representatives from U.S. companies working in Egypt, members of the U.S. Egypt Business Council and members of the visiting AmCham Egypt-Egypt-U.S. Business Council delegation as well as members of the press. In his speech, Minister Abdel Nour outlined the challenges that Egypt has been facing for the past three years ending with the current phase of transition and conveyed his message of optimism concerning the political and economic road map set forth by the current interim government by affirming that; “The Constitution is the centerpiece of the road map; it is the solid foundation that will bear the construction of the New Egypt. It paves the way for the restoration of order and security and for the normalization of political life, sine qua non conditions to any revival of the economy” and on the economy he went on to add that;A “In order to jump start the economy the Government adopted an aggressive expansionary financial policy and approved a stimulus program the first tranche of which amounts to some 30 billion Egyptian Pounds allocated for the execution of infrastructure projects including housing projects, roads and bridges , grain silos, the completion of the third line of the Cairo metro, the upgrading of electricity power plant stations, the completion of industrial land infrastructure in 35 industrial zones, the upgrading of certain parts of the Egyptian railway network”
Finally Minister Abdel Nour announced the launch of two major projects that should attract the interest of potential investors; the first one concerns the development of the Suez Canal region with a view to create a logistics and industrial services center around the Canal and a commercial hub in a strategic geographic position at the crossroads of three continents. While the second project aims at developing an area situated between the Nile Valley in Kena in Upper Egypt and the Red Sea shore between the ports of Safaga and Kosseir that has been named “the Golden triangle” due to its richness in mineral resources including gold, phosphate, quartz, and many others.
A few members of the delegation visited New York following the visit to Washington; where they met with the Chairman of the Egyptian American Enterprise Fund, the President of the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) and senior representatives from Citibank, HSBC and Caravel Management.
This visit came at a historic time of transition for Egypt; where the country is now on its road to democracy; and more than 20 million Egyptians voted mid January in favor of the new constitution; the highest voter turnout in the history of Egypt’s 28 referendums. Presidential elections followed by parliamentary elections are scheduled for the next few months.
“During the past three years, Egypt’s private sector and U.S. companies operating in Egypt have continued to make profits, create jobs and grow. We seek partnerships with U.S. companies, both those who already have succeeded in Egypt as well as newcomers to the Egyptian market- this is the message we carry with us on this very important mission” said Anis Aclimandos, AmCham President.
“With Egypt’s strategic and genius of the location near markets in Asia, Africa and Europe, significant hydrocarbon resources, growing young population; local market of 90 million consumers, businesses in Egypt are confident in the country's future and are moving forward; many are re-investing and trade is growing” said Mr. Omar Mohanna, Chairman of the Egypt-U.S. Business Council (EUSBC).
“AmCham Egypt and the Egypt-U.S. Business Council (EUSBC) are first and foremost concerned with issues related to the promotion and expansion of private sector ties between Egypt and the United States. This is the first joint mission to the U.S. in the history of both organizations coming at a very critical time in the history of Egypt-U.S. relations” said Hisham A. Fahmy, CEO of AmCham Egypt and member of the Egypt-U.S. Business Council (EUSBC)
On the other hand, and as part of AmCham’s recently launched ‘Egypt For Business’ communications campaign aiming at strengthening the “Egyptian Brand” through reach out to U.S. and foreign media, several media outlets covered this mission. Many delegates were interviewed by prominent news agencies including; Foreign Policy, Huffington Post, the Washington Beacon, The Washington Trade Daily, Mc Clansky News and the National Public Radio (NPR). A The key messages projected through this media outreach efforts were;
- In spite of the turbulences that Egypt had witnessed during the past three years, businesses; Egyptian and American are continuing to make profits and the private sector continues to see the huge potential in the market and is increasingly committed to Egypt’s transition.A
- Opportunities for U.S. companies: Egypt enjoys the largest consumer market in the Middle East, and is the ideal hub for business expansion into the rest of the region as well as Africa.
- Egypt’s vibrant youth potential: 50% of Egypt’s population is less than 25 years. The growing trend of entrepreneurship development is proving to be critical for Egypt’s growth, economic and social.