As Egypt and the US celebrate the 100th anniversary of their official relations this year, Steve Lutes, executive director of the US-Egypt Business Council (USEBC), visited Cairo last week as part of the countdown to the UN COP27 Climate Change Conference that Egypt will host in Sharm El-Sheikh in November.
The USEBC is the leading advocacy organisation representing top US companies doing business in Egypt. It was established in 1979 by then US president Jimmy Carter and then Egyptian president Anwar Al-Sadat.
Lutes’ visit last week focused on supporting Egypt in the run-up to COP27 and in advancing the vital role the private sector has to play at the conference.
Al-Ahram Weekly: How does the US Chamber of Commerce see Egypt’s hosting the COP27 scheduled in November?
Steve Lutes: We are encouraged to have Egypt hosting COP27. We have a long history of working in partnership with Egyptian leaders in business and government to try to deepen and expand trade and investment ties. Egypt’s hosting of COP27 provides us with an opportunity to once again collaborate and bring experts, innovators, investors, and leaders from the private sector together with government decision-makers to try to get things done.
We have an opportunity to come together through COP27 and make an impact during this milestone year that will be remembered by future generations as they look back on our bilateral relationship.
We are here in Cairo from the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, and it is worth noting that our first trip in 2022 internationally anywhere around the globe is to Egypt, which shows the priority we place on the US-Egypt relationship and the importance of the private sector as a close partner in the work leading to and at COP27 in November
AW: What are the outcomes of the visit?
SL: While we have been here, the US Chamber, in partnership with our friends at AmCham Egypt, hosted a roundtable discussion for business leaders with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and a second expanded meeting for companies with his senior advisor Ambassador David Thorne.
We had companies participating from across the entire economy. These companies are linked by their belief that the private sector must be part of the climate solution.
We have had a number of other meetings with the minister of international cooperation as well as officials at the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Petroleum, and with the secretary-general of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum. Of course, we have met with many business executives too.
At each meeting with the government, I would say the idea of the private sector being a partner to help drive solutions and progress has been fully embraced, which is certainly encouraging
AW: What role will the US Chamber play in helping Egypt prepare for COP27?
SL: What we have heard from Egyptian and US officials is that COP27 will focus on implementation. What we know is that it is the private sector that will develop new technologies, operationalise solutions, and finance projects to reduce emissions, while expanding access to cleaner energy and new innovations. So, the business community is an essential element in this endeavour.
At the US chamber, we are organising our plans for what we will seek to do in the coming months on the road to COP27 and at the actual conference. At the core of this effort will be ensuring there is a strong partnership between the private sector and government, particularly the host the Egyptian government.
In partnership with AmCham Egypt and the US Embassy in Cairo, we will be organising a GreenTech business delegation to come to Cairo to meet with Egyptian officials and business leaders to understand Egypt’s priority areas and sectors with COP27 and any specific projects and incentives in Egypt associated with those priorities.
Over the coming months, we will also be looking to showcase initiatives and projects already being done by businesses in Egypt in areas like sustainability as well as plans for future activities. We need to raise awareness about these important efforts with our friends in government as they look for ideas to emulate and scale in other markets.
You can count on the US chamber being at COP27 and bringing a diverse group of companies
AW: How can the private sector help in dealing with climate change challenges?
SL: This is an important question, and I think we have to realise that most, if not all, sectors across the economy have an important role to play and room for progress.
What will be key to driving investment and inclusive economic development will be a sustained focus by the government on crafting new policies and incentives and reforming existing regulations that improve the business environment. An essential ingredient in this process is ensuring that the private sector is consulted and a partner in the policymaking process.
When it comes to policies and regulations, businesses like certainty and consultation and having an opportunity to engage in the process and share their perspectives, best practices, and advice. This can be helpful for all stakeholders, and helping to facilitate this is a role the US chamber and AmCham Egypt are glad to play.
A version of this article appears in print in the 3 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.