At business forum, McCain says US-Egypt relations ‘changing’

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CAIRO: Joined by US Senator John McCain, some of the largest American companies in Egypt met in Cairo on Monday to discuss economic partnerships, particularly underlining supply chain opportunities.

Ahead of the business discussions, McCain said that while America’s partnership with Egypt is “changing,” the US is determined to help Egypt through its transition, and stressed that both countries must remain “friends.”

Anne Patterson, US Ambassador to Egypt, also addressed the US-Egypt Business Council at the conference titled “Supply Chain Opportunities: A Partnership for Egypt and the US.”

Patterson stressed that American investors in Egypt have been successful, providing employment for over 50,000 people through their investments, while supporting tens of thousands more and are committed to the future of the country.

“More of them will be entering Egypt in the future or expanding their operations here,” Patterson said.

“This translates into new jobs for Egyptian workers and taxes paid for Egyptian government programs. Most foreign investors hire highly skilled workers who bring home a better salary to improve the lives of their families,” she said.

In a series of similar discussions in the year since the Jan. 25 uprising, the American government has repeatedly voiced its commitment to helping Egypt move forward through the turbulent transition.

Patterson reiterated this message on Monday. “The US is committed to a strategic economic partnership with Egypt and is prepared to work on several areas to improve trade facilitation, supply chain management, good governance, and regional trade and investment arrangements to boost the country’s economy,” she said.

The ambassador added that she met on Sunday with several American investors as well as winners of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, who are also successful business officials, to discuss future collaboration.

Although the ambassador said this might be a time of “stress” in America’s relationship with Egypt, US investors still want to be deeply involved in the “new Egypt.”

Taking part in the panel discussions were American and Egyptian CEOs from General Electric, Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, Bechtel and Kraft Foods.

“Today, Egypt is defining its growth strategy with a focus on strengthening its different economic sectors, including the manufacturing and industries sector, to create new jobs and enhance the standard of living of the people,” said Nabil Habayeb, president and CEO of General Electric Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

“The manufacturing sector of the country has tremendous potential for growth, and the Egyptian Supplier Conference will set the direction for creating an integrated supply chain network that helps the growth of industries,” Habayeb said, highlighting the potential of the manufacturing sector in Egypt.

Mohamed Nour, Coca-Cola’s technical manager of North and West Africa, told Daily News Egypt that the conference means more opportunities for job creation in Egypt.

“Coca-Cola is interested in locally sourcing its manufacturing products here in Egypt,” said Nour. “The supply chain process includes buying, making and then selling the final product; and local suppliers in Egypt are making their own and supplying other countries including Morocco, East Africa, and the Horn of Africa, and even Europe,” he said.

Nour pointed out that Coca-Cola Egypt started off importing 70 percent of its goods used to make its product from outside of Egypt. Now, almost 90 percent of the products are locally made, even bottles.

This provides more opportunities for Egyptian manufacturers as well as the local labor force, he stressed.

Currently, Coca-Cola is dedicating 25 percent of its management time to developing the “technical energy” of local suppliers, all part of enhancing the company’s logistics, value change, as well as corporate social responsibility.

The conference, meant to boost the economic cooperation, comes at a time of strained political ties spurred by Egypt’s military-led government’s crackdown on non-government organizations, a case in which 19 Americans are facing trial.

At the business talks, officials did not mention the NGO cases. Senator McCain, however, was due to hold another conference in Cairo later in the evening.

The economic conference was held in collaboration with Egypt’s General Authority for Investment (GAFI) and the Federation of Egyptian Industries, as well as Egypt’s Industrial Modernization Center and the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.

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