A 36-strong delegation of Egyptian businessmen is in Washington as part of the American Chamber of Commerce in Cairo’s (AmCham) 42nd door-knock mission to the US. The annual event aims to boost cooperation between the two countries in the area of trade and investment.
This year’s visit coincides with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s trip to Washington, and in the wake of the Arab Summit in Tunisia.
During the mission, which began on 31 March and ends on 5 April, the delegation met with members of the US Congress, administration officials, think tanks, media and representatives of the US business community.
The impact of Egypt’s economic reform measures and the investment opportunities available for US businesses in Egypt were the centre of discussions.
A delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is scheduled to visit Egypt in May for the IMF’s fifth review of Egypt’s implementation of its economic reform programme. The review will precede the disbursement of $2 billion, the final tranche of the $12 billion Extended Fund Facility agreed in late 2016.
Subir Lall, the IMF’s Egypt mission chief, told the press delegation accompanying the door-knock mission that implementation of the economic reform programme had helped stabilise the Egyptian economy and poised it for growth, cut unemployment to its lowest level since 2011, increased hard currency reserves and improved the country’s public finances.
Lall praised the steps taken by the Egyptian government to improve the investment environment and encourage the private sector to expand.
This visit also coincides with the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of the US Egypt Business Council which marked a new phase in the bilateral partnership.
US direct investments in Egypt stood at $22.6 billion in 2016, representing 35.4 per cent of US direct investment in Africa and 46.2 per cent of US direct investment in the Middle East, according to AmCham figures.
Egypt is also one of the largest recipients of US foreign assistance worldwide. According to the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID), Egypt has received nearly $30 billion since 1978.
This year’s mission comes at a time when the US administration has stated its interest in building stronger partnerships in the Middle East and Egypt is well positioned to maintain its leading role as a key alley and partner.
Paul Salem, vice president of the Institute for Middle East Studies in Washington, said the relationship between the current US administration and Egypt embraces the continuing cooperation on the economic, military and counter-terrorism levels and the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
He stressed that although US President Donald Trump will not back down from his decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, taken to stabilise his position with core voters at home and bolster Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s election chances, he recognises the importance of Egypt as a longstanding lynchpin of regional stability and understands the Egyptian role in Gaza and Cairo’s relations with Fatah and Hamas.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 April, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Knock on