There is a growing consideration among US companies to use Egypt as a hub of operations for American exports to the Middle East and Africa, according to Steve Lutes, executive director of the US Chamber of Commerce’s US-Egypt Business Council, in Washington, DC.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Lutes on the occasion of the US Independence Day.
How do you assess Egypt-US trade exchange during the first half of 2021?
We continue to be in challenging times as we begin to emerge from the depths of the pandemic so it is important that we focus on economic recovery and growth, and this certainly includes US-Egypt economic ties. However, I believe for many American companies, it is more than just the notion of exporting to Egypt. A growing consideration for US companies is using Egypt as a hub of operations to export throughout the Middle East and Africa and take advantage of Egypt’s existing trade agreements. This is the sort of dynamic approach that we need to have as we look to the future.
What are the updates of the Egyptian-American discussions on FTA?
With the new Biden Administration, we will have to engage and build the case for a trade agreement between the United States and Egypt based on the economic merits for both of our nations as well as the geopolitical importance it would carry. The US Chamber’s US-Egypt Business Council has and continues to support our nations entering into such an agreement that would remove barriers and eliminate tariffs and, by doing so, release untapped potential for increased trade and investment.
Realistically, there is a great deal of focus at this time on China and other priorities; therefore, it is important for us to think strategically about advancing initiatives that will drive deeper and expanded economic ties between the United States and Egypt as we work toward a broader trade agreement. In fact, the US-Egypt Business Council recently shared ideas with both the Biden Administration and Egyptian leadership to chart a path for closer economic ties in several vital areas. We will focus on these and other key areas of opportunity for growth.
What are the target sectors for US companies showing interest to operate in the Egyptian market?
By looking at the membership composition of the US-Egypt Business Council, you will understand the breadth of sectors that American companies are focused on doing business in Egypt. It really reflects the economic diversity that Egypt’s Vision 2030 aspires to achieve. You have a lot of companies in the oil and gas sector given the growing opportunities as well as in clean energy and sustainability. There are also many US companies in Egypt focused on innovative sectors like life sciences, medical technologies, cyber security, digital economy, and industry 4.0. And, of course, there are companies in agriculture, consumer products, financial services, infrastructure, logistics, travel and tourism, and more.
Are there any planned visits of US business delegations (either from American companies or the government) to Egypt in 2021?
The US Chamber’s US-Egypt Business Council, in partnership with our friends at AmCham Egypt, has a long track record of bringing large and engaged business delegations to Egypt as well as hosting President Sisi when he visits the United States. We were honored to host President Sisi for a first of its kind virtual CEO Roundtable in April, and we will look to build on that experience. As conditions allow, you can trust that we will look to again organize and lead business delegations to visit Egypt to both meet with Egyptian officials and business leaders and to inform American companies on the range of commercial and investment opportunities the Egyptian market offers.
What do you think of Egypt’s economic performance in the recent period?
Egypt’s economic performance in 2020 was impressive given the fact that it was the only economy in the Middle East to achieve positive GDP growth during this very challenging period. The economic and fiscal reforms championed by President Al-Sisi and his administration and, I should add, supported by the US-Egypt Business Council, played a role in Egypt’s economic successes to date. We believe these reforms and other initiatives, such as the Ministry of Petroleum’s modernization plan, will have positive impacts going forward.