American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt
Doorknock Mission to Washington
June 23-27, 2014
This year’s AmCham Doorknock delegation was the first prominent Egyptian private sector presence in Washington since President Al-Sisi’s election. Two major milestones of Egypt’s roadmap have been successfully implemented; a modern constitution in place and transparent and fair presidential election concluded with great popular support. Egypt has made great progress in terms of security as well as political and social stability and is starting to develop programs and reforms to bring about economic revival.
Consistent with the overall mission of AmCham Egypt, the delegation was eager to make the case that Egypt is again “open for business” and welcomes U.S. investment and trade. The delegation also reiterated that they represented moderate voices committed to the US-Egypt relationship, highlighting that such a strategic partnership must be strengthened at all levels, and that misunderstandings that have arisen over the past three years must be resolved.
According to the delegation, it was obvious that Egypt has many supporters in the United States, especially in Congress and among policymakers and analysts who understand the national security importance of our bilateral partnership. However, a small number of Members of Congress serving on Committees with influence over Egypt-related legislation are not in favor of supporting Egypt at the present time.
Egypt's commitment to economic and political reforms was of much interest to many of the policymakers the delegation met with on the Hill and especially in the Executive Branch, who also inquired about the specific steps the new government is planning to take on issues such as subsidies and taxation. Several decision makers with knowledge of Egypt - and whom we consider to be friends, inquired about the economic agenda, the principles and policy members who are crafting it and the new government’s plans to meet the Egyptian people’s expectations. Recent developments in Egypt; pertaining to the June 23rd judicial verdict in the case of the four journalists did not dominate the meetings, however it without doubt colored them, but did not detract from the messages the delegation had come prepared to discuss.
Several policymakers acknowledged that Egypt has been going through extremely rough times, yet it is emerging - slowly but surely - in the midst of a turbulent neighborhood.
AmCham members were encouraged by the level of interest in business, trade and investment in Egypt among U.S. Government agencies including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the United States Trade Development Agency (USTDA) and the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Also, many of the offices they met with on the Hill were interested in promoting trade and investment with their states and congressional districts; and encouraged us to engage with the business community and key stakeholders beyond Washington.
The Qualified Industrial Zones-QIZ agreement; which allows duty free access of Egyptian products into the U.S. remains popular. Several emphasized the need for expanding the QIZs beyond the textiles' domination. Even in the midst of criticism from some quarters in Washington, officials and business executives see Egypt as a promising location for investment and feel confident that the security situation will be stabilized. Among the sectors that were mentioned prominently are energy, transportation, IT and agro-business. It is worth mentioning that a US-Egypt Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was raised as a possibility to be further explored in 2015.
In fact, all the aforementioned issues and points were raised, echoed and reiterated during a high profile dinner hosted in honor of AmCham by the Meridian International Center, a think tank whose mission is to strengthen U.S. engagement with the world through the power of exchange. The dinner was attended by high-level dignitaries from the U.S. administration, the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, corporate America and multilateral institutions. The discussion was moderated by Ambassador Stuart Holliday, President & CEO, Meridian International Center and Former Secretary of Commerce, the Honorable Carlos Gutierrez, Chairman of the Meridian International Center.
The AmCham Egypt Doorknock delegation held a total of 95 meetings in Washington between June 23rd and June 27th, 2014. These included; 46 meetings with Members of Congress (House and Senate), nine meetings with Chiefs of Staff of Members of Congress; and eight meetings with Leadership Staff of Congressional Committees. Meetings with the Executive Branch included meetings with senior officials at the Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of the Treasury, Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
The delegation also met with Senior officials at many of Washington’s prominent Think Tanks and Multinational Financial Institutions, including; the International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Finance Corporation (IFC), Woodrow Wilson Center, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Brookings Institute, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Atlantic Council, Scowcroft Group, Center for American Progress, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, National Foreign Trade Council, Freedom House and the Center for New American Security.
A special luncheon was hosted on June 24 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in honor of the AmCham delegation. The event featured welcoming remarks by Ambassador of Egypt to the United States Mohamed Tawfik, and a keynote speech by Ambassador Charles Rivkin, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs. During his speech, Assistant Secretary Rivkin expressed the U.S. commitment to supporting Egypt’s economic recovery and the government’s efforts to create jobs and economic opportunities for the Egyptian people. Anis Aclimandos, President of AmCham Egypt, and Andy Baukol, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Middle East and Africa at the U.S. Department of Treasury, both also spoke at the event. The luncheon was attended by a large number of guests representing the U.S. Administration, corporate America, the think-tank community as well as media representatives.
Other meetings and events hosted in honor of the AmCham delegation included; a special dinner hosted by Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik at the Egyptian Embassy; a luncheon discussion hosted by Dr. Abdel Shakour Shaalan, Member of the Board, International Monetary Fund and a panel discussion hosted by the Truman Center for National Policy.
Having attended more than 95 meetings during the Doorknock week; the delegation left Washington with a sense that the bilateral relationship clearly has improved and that Egypt has far more friends in Washington than it does enemies. They also came away with the sense that officials in the Administration were looking for ways to “re-boot” the relationship and will eagerly seize on positive developments in Egypt (pertaining to the forthcoming parliamentary elections, the economy, legal reforms, civil rights, etc.) to justify a return to the “norm” which has defined the bilateral relationship for 40 years.
Importantly, it was obvious that policymakers in Washington continue to see AmCham Egypt as an independent and credible voice - especially as our delegation included representatives of several major multinationals, Doorknock veterans, and a number of young businessmen and women. This fact made our arguments in support of Egypt’s progress even more powerful and had many requests that more Doorknocks and missions be organized in conjunction with an aggressive outreach and public relations effort in Washington and other states to increase understanding.
As part of AmCham’s continued efforts to promote Egypt as an investment destination for U.S. companies, a high-level U.S. business delegation; co-organized with the U.S. Egypt Business Council (USEBC); will be visiting Egypt during the period from November 9-11 to explore opportunities for investment and joint cooperation.