Remarks by Under Secretary Lago - May 17, 2023

Cairo, Egypt
May 17, 2023

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning and thank you, Your Excellency, for graciously hosting us, and for the warm welcome to Egypt. I am delighted to be back in Cairo for the first-ever U.S.– Egypt Joint Economic Commission.

I am honored that the White House asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to lead the U.S. delegation to inaugurate this important event—an event that emerged from a discussion between President el-Sisi and President Biden. I speak for the full U.S. delegation in saying that we look forward to building on our leaders’ strategic dialogue and advancing our shared commitment to strengthening economic and commercial ties between our nations. I am optimistic about the JEC’s potential to deepen economic, trade and investment ties, to promote shared prosperity, to prepare our economies for the future and to forge resilience to global economic shocks.

It is likewise our honor to be here today alongside so many distinguished members of the Egyptian government. My colleagues and I are energized to explore how we can grow shared prosperity for the Egyptian and American people, while supporting Egypt in achieving ambitious goals for its economy and its role as a leader in the region.

In addition to colleagues from the U.S. Embassy here in Cairo, I am joined today by a team from Washington that includes Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, Whitney Baird, and Regional Director for the Middle East, Africa and Europe for the U.S. Trade Development Agency, Carl Kress.

The robust participation that you see here is a testament to how much we value our strategic partnership with Egypt, and how committed President Biden is to strengthening that partnership. 

Last year, the United States and Egypt celebrated a century of bilateral relations. As we look to the next 100 years, expanding trade and investment between our two countries will further strengthen our relationship and yield mutual benefit for the American and Egyptian people.

For the U.S. Department of Commerce, Egypt is a keystone of our engagement in the Middle East and Africa. 

As the largest destination in Africa for U.S. exports, there is no denying Egypt’s commercial importance. Likewise, U.S. companies are increasing their presence here to help Egypt meet its goals across a variety of sectors—especially in information and communication technologies, and in infrastructure. The United States is also one of the largest foreign investors in Egypt, with over 1,000 U.S. companies operating in the country, providing jobs, supporting families and communities, and boosting economic activity. 

But that is just part of the story—the strength of our relationship extends well beyond trade and investment flows.

Egypt has always served as the center of gravity in the Arab world—whether in education, culture, politics or trade. It is no accident that the U.S. Department of Commerce manages our regional operations from right here in Cairo.

Egypt’s regional leadership also means that we look to you as a partner in addressing issues that extend beyond your borders—including some of the toughest global challenges.

We have seen how COVID-19 and Russia’s unjustified war in Ukraine have created shocks that have disrupted economies globally—from supply chain pressures, to energy shortages, to spiking food prices. I know that, as with the United States, these challenges have burdened Egypt.

Our bilateral partnership is crucial to building future resilience. We are optimistic about the prospects for the JEC to take our economic and commercial relationship to new heights, to facilitate increased business investment and trade, and to advance our shared efforts to combat climate change and address other global priorities.

It is in this spirit of close partnership that led our delegation comes to Egypt. It is also the spirit with which we approach this inaugural meeting of the JEC.

In preparing for this meeting, it was no surprise how closely the suggested agenda items from the Egyptian and U.S. sides aligned.  

This cohesion reflects our mutual understanding of both the challenges that we face and the areas in which we can support each other’s growth.
On energy and the environment, we are eager to build on Egypt’s leadership as President of COP27 to combat the global climate crisis, including through reducing emissions, decarbonizing sectors, and exploring exciting areas for collaboration—like sustainable aviation fuel. 

On sustainable infrastructure and supply chains, we will discuss opportunities to reduce vulnerabilities and ensure the free flow of goods through closer collaboration between our governments. 

On digital transformation, we look forward to learning more about Egypt’s ICT 2030 Strategy and your vision for a “Digital Egypt.” We hope that we can discuss tools, issues and solutions to support this work—from Open RAN to ensuring the free flow of data. 

And on women’s economic empowerment—a special priority of mine—we look forward to exploring areas where our cooperation can ensure that the benefits of trade and investment are shared more broadly in Egypt and the United States alike.

In these and other sessions on advancing bilateral economic ties and food security, our perspectives may differ at times. We welcome this candor as part of a frank, productive conversation—the sign of a deep and durable friendship. 

Whether resolving shared challenges or pursuing new opportunities, we embark on today’s discussion—the first of many to come—in a spirit of partnership, cooperation and collaboration.

And I am confident that this JEC will lead to tangible benefits for both of our economies, and for the American and Egyptian peoples.

To our warm Egyptian hosts, thank you–Shukran for your hospitality and for the opportunity to meet today. I look forward to getting to work.