Limited Special Mission to Washington D.C.
March 28-April 2, 2022
A limited delegation of Board Members and senior executives representing AmCham Egypt visited Washington, D.C. for a special mission, during the period from March 28th till April 2nd, 2022.
Over the course of five days, delegates took part in more than 50 meetings with Members of the U.S. Congress, Administration and Executive Branch officials, think-tanks, and leaders from the U.S. business community. These included 21 meetings with Members of Congress and their staffers, 11 meetings with the Executive Branch, including meetings with senior officials at the Departments of State, Commerce, Treasury, Defense and Energy. In addition to meetings with the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im), Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), United States Trade Development Agency (USTDA), the Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Office of the U.S. Presidential Envoy for Climate Change .
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 International Financing Corporation (IFC), Center for American Progress, Middle East Institute, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Atlantic Council, Wilson Center, The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, 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 recent onset of the Russia-Ukraine war, and its impact on the region, and particularly on Egypt was a common topic discussed during all meetings. Delegates explained that Egypt has been negatively impacted, given the fact that it is the world’s largest importer of wheat, and where 80% of its wheat imports are from Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, 20% of Egypt’s tourist inflows originate from those two countries. The importance of diversifying sources for wheat imports were discussed, including opportunities for the U.S. to supply Egypt with its much needed wheat imports. During meetings with Ex-Im bank the possibility of availing a finance facility to support wheat imports was discussed.
It was also discussed that the Russia-Ukraine war has triggered a series of capital outflows from emerging markets; including Egypt, forcing the Central Bank to increase interest rates and allow the currency to float; loosing 17% of its value against the dollar. As a measure this was described to be in line with what is required to reach an agreement on an additional IMF funding program.
Egypt’s plans to host COP27 next November, was another important issue discussed during most meetings. Delegates acknowledged efforts by the Egyptian Government in developing its green economy, building up to a successful COP27 next November, and in actively engaging with the private sector to work hand in hand towards achieving its ambitious commitments. 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 shed light on several successful projects in the areas of adaptation and mitigation, aimed at reducing the carbon footprint; including building the world’s largest solar part of Benban in Aswan, the state of the art desalination project of Bahr El Bakar, and several other projects. During their discussions, delegates highlighted the fact that European companies have continued to expand their presence in Egypt within the renewable and power sectors, and that much opportunities exist for U.S. investors to explore and leverage.
During a meeting with Ambassador David Thorne, Special Advisor to the Presidential Envoy for Climate Change, who was recently in Cairo, delegates discussed plans by AmCham Egypt, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to host the Special Green Tech Trade Mission to Cairo during the week of May 14th. The Mission will seek to explore opportunities for U.S. investments in green projects, as well as to facilitate knowledge transfer and innovation.
The proactive role of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, as an investment vehicle was also discussed in several meetings, and interest was evident by several stakeholders to explore opportunities that are made available through the Fund.
On the general business environment, 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 that has been witnessed within different sectors. Delegates also shared updates on the latest efforts by the Cabinet to limit the role of the state within the economy, through withdrawing from certain sectors, and providing a level-playing field for the private sector. Delegates also emphasized the fact 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.
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.
The anticipated move of the Government to the New Administrative Capital in the coming month was also discussed. Delegates also shed light on the outstanding and remarkable infrastructure projects of roads, bridges and ports, and the linking of 14 new cities.
Delegates highlighted the progress being made on the human rights front; particularly with regards to women empowerment, and inclusion of individuals with disabilities as part of the economy. Additionally, the fact that Egypt launched its first ever National Strategy on Human Rights last 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, was highlighted.
During several meetings with prominent think tanks, it was noted that there has been a real shift in U.S. Foreign Policy, and there are ongoing debates between members of the same party and not only between parties. Accordingly, the delegation continued to stress 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; being first in the region to sign a peace treaty with Israel, its commitment to transferring 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 (EMGF). On the issue of the Ethiopian Dam, delegates were keen on clarifying Egypt’s position, and outlined the likely impact of filling the dam on its food supply and thus its national security. Accordingly, delegates urged the U.S. to resume its mediation efforts to assist in reaching an acceptable solution.
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.
Additionally Egypt’s potential as a research and development hub was discussed, especially given the experience of several major technology companies operating in the country, including IBM, SAP and Microsoft. The opportunity for Egypt to serve as an educational hub for African students, and prospects for exchange programs with U.S. universities was also discussed with several think tanks.
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.
With regards to the future of the US-Egypt trade relationship, during the meeting with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), it was discussed that a round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks is due in the coming months. USTR expressed their deep interest to promote exports of vehicles to Egypt. It was noted that discussions regularly take place regarding Egypt’s status on the 301 List, which puts a spotlight on the laws and practices of countries that fail to provide adequate and effective intellectual property protection of US IPR. On the issue of trade marks, it was discussed that the Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) would be able to bring in experts that can support in building capacities.
With regards to potential investments, representatives from the US Export-Import Bank expressed their interest in extending the Bank’s loan guarantee program for Egypt, as a potential supporting arm to the private sector. AmCham Egypt will be collaborating with the Bank in order to promote bilateral investments and highlight opportunities available for Members.
Several events were held on the margins of the visit;
- A Special Networking Reception & Dinner Event was hosted on March 29th by the U.S.-Egypt Business Council in partnership with AmCham Egypt, Inc. welcoming the AmCham Egypt Visiting Delegation featuring reception remarks by Andy Abell Regional Lead for the Middle East & North Africa, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).
- A Reception on March 30th in Celebration of the U.S.-Egypt Defense Relationship & The Agreement Upgrading Egypt's Boeing Apache Helicopters featuring Mr. James A. Hursch, Director, Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
- A Reception hosted by Ambassador of Egypt to the U.S. Motaz Zahran at the Residence on March 31st and in the presence of several Members of Congress and Members of the Egypt Caucus.
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.