AmCham Egypt and Egypt-US Business Council
Special Mission to Washington D.C.
October 4-8, 2021
A limited delegation of senior executives representing AmCham Egypt and EUSBC visited Washington, D.C. during the period from October 4th to October 8th for a Special Mission. This was the first visit since April 2019, coming nine months into the Presidency of Joe Biden.
Over the course of five days, delegates took part in more than 30 meetings with members of the U.S. Congress, Administration officials, think-tanks, media and leaders from the U.S. business community. These included meetings with Members of Congress and their staffers, the Executive Branch, including meetings with senior officials at the Department of State, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im), Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and the Agency for International Development (USAID).
The delegation also had several meetings with senior representatives at Washington’s prominent Think-Tanks and Multinational Financial Institutions, including; the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Center for American Progress, the Council on Foreign Relations, Middle East Institute, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Atlantic Council, Congressional Research Service (CRS), Center for Security Policy, Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue University, and others.
During their meetings, delegates promoted dialogue on important commercial issues as well as shared their perspective on social and political issues of bilateral importance. The delegation outlined the main features of the economic reform program adopted by the government, which encompasses structural and administrative reform measures, highlighting the positive macro-economic indicators and the growth being witnessed within different sectors, sharing some examples of success stories of businesses operating in the country.
Delegates shared that the government is increasingly lending the private sector a carefully listening ear with respect to what is needed to improve the business environment, and engaging the private sector in monitoring the implementation of the related reforms. Discussion covered the developments in the New Administrative Capital that will house the new government brain trust in the form of hand-picked 50,000 employees who are subjected to intensive training programs and will lead New Egypt’s administrative reform. As for the impact of the reforms on the vulnerable segments of the society, delegates shared that this is being addressed by comprehensive social programs such as Takafol and Karama that provided a social safety net to the needy part of the population. This, as well as embarking on improving the quality of life in the poorest rural communities by initially targeting 20% of the population living in 1500 villages (about one third of the total number of Egyptian villages). This transformational initiative that was launched under the name of « Decent Life » is budgeting investing 700 billion Egyptian Pounds to be spent throughout the targeted completion date of end 2030, and would cover providing decent housing, water and sanitation, medical and educational services, as well as extending micro finance and investing in human capital.
Delegates shed light on the outstanding and remarkable infrastructure projects of roads, bridges and ports, the development of 14 new cities, and the overhauling and modernization of our railway and transportation systems. This besides mentioning the remarkable efforts made in our uphill battle for improving the education and health services. It was suffice to state that Egypt realized an annual growth rate over the last year under the Covid-19 pandemic of 3.6%, and that the World Bank expects Egypt to achieve a 5% growth rate during the current fiscal year.
The fact that Egypt has more than doubled its energy supply, and is targeting a level of energy mix of new, renewable and green energy of 42.5% of our total energy supply by the year 2035 was also discussed. Delegates were proud to share that Egypt is leading efforts by the region to combat climate change. With Egypt being the potential host of the UN COP 27 Climate Summit in 2022, and given its role as a leader in the largest energy producing region of the world, it is looking for ways in which governments and the private sector can work together leveraging technology and innovation to address the climate challenge.
Additionally delegates highlighted the fact that Egypt launched its first ever National Strategy on Human Rights in September, comprising four pillars; civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; rights of women, children, persons with disabilities, youth and the elderly; and education and capacity building in the field of human rights. This step was describes as a categorical unprecedented step and a milestone in Egypt's history, showcasing the government’s commitment to advance the rights of citizens.
The delegation continuously stressed on the importance of maintaining a strong and robust bilateral relationship; given Egypt’s strategic role as an influential regional power. They highlighted the country’s pivotal efforts towards maintaining security and stability in the Middle East; through mediating a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, committing to transfer natural gas to Lebanon to assist in managing its crisis, and its ongoing cooperation with countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region under the umbrella of the East Med Gas Forum.
It is worth noting that during the visit to Washington, the public focus was on internal U.S. issues including; raising the debt ceiling, approving a “continuing resolution” to fund the Federal government until a fiscal year budget is agreed to, and also on the Biden Administration and the Democrats in Congress agreeing on the details of a bipartisan infrastructure package potentially worth $1 trillion in new projects and programs in addition to a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that would expand the nation's social safety net programs and combat climate change. Despite Washington ’s predominant focus on internal affairs, the delegation’s message was well-received, and interlocutors were eager to hear about developments taking place on the ground in Egypt.
Egypt’s soft power, as well as its aspiration for increased participation in the global economy; welcoming greater trade with the US and increased investment by its private sector was also expressed. Dialogue was conducted between both sides with the ultimate goal of building a deeper U.S.-Egypt commercial relationship, opening new opportunities for American firms, creating jobs and improving the lives of citizens of both countries.
Delegates also shared their perspective on the unmatched opportunity which Egypt represents for U.S. manufacturers and investors. Egypt is a strategically located, young and dynamic market of more than 100 million consumers, offering competitive access to the international markets of Africa and Europe through its existing trade agreements, thereby spreading the demand for American products across the region, lowering exporting costs and ultimately creating more jobs for U.S. citizens.
During their meetings and discussions, the U.S. side made several notable observations regarding the deep need to regularly communicate the positive story of Egypt, including; political and social stability; economic growth; sustainable development; social services like health and education; civil service reform; gender equality; entrepreneurship; and cultural renewal.
There is considerable interest in Washington regarding Egypt’s growing role as an energy hub in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the U.S. being part of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) and policymakers throughout Washington were cognizant of the fact that only Egypt is able to connect all of the relevant players.
With regards to the future of the US-Egypt trade relationship, a scheduled round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks is due next month. The delegation was told that “a successful TIFA is the opening to a potential Free Trade Agreement FTA.”
With regards to potential investments, the US Export-Import Bank has been re-authorized, and is once again relaunching its loan guarantee program for Egypt, as a potential supporting arm to the private sector. AmCham expressed interest in collaborating with the Bank in order to promote bilateral investments and highlight opportunities available.
Several events were held on the margins of the visit; a special breakfast meeting was hosted on October 5th by Egypt’s Ambassador to the United States, Moataz Zahran at the Residence. Ambassador Zahran’s hospitality, generosity and support were deeply appreciated. A reception was organized for senior Congressional staff and was well attended. A dinner with the AmCham Egypt, Inc. Advisory Board took place on October 7th.
Overall, the delegation ended their mission with a sense of optimism that Egypt has a lot of support on the highest levels. The delegation noted that Congress, the Executive Branch and the think tank community, continue to perceive AmCham Egypt as an independent and credible voice with which they can have an honest and open dialogue, and that a follow up Mission is needed in the coming months. AmCham Egypt’s U.S. affiliate – AmCham Egypt, Inc. - will be maintaining regular dialogue with stakeholders in Washington, as well as ensuring the Egypt story is adequately communicated.