Remarks by Under Secretary Lago - May 18, 2023

Cairo, Egypt
May 18, 2023

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon. Masaa’ al-khair. Thank you, your Excellency Minister Talaat, and Ambassador Hazem Fahmy for the warm welcome to Egypt. 

I will also recognize U.S. Charge d’Affaires, Ambassador John Desrocher, and Minister Counselor Keith Kirkham, who heads the U.S. Department of Commerce’s regional team that is based here in Cairo. Both of them are leaders in forging even stronger bilateral commercial ties between the United States and Egypt.

My thanks as well to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S-Egypt Business Council, and AmCham Egypt for their fruitful collaboration around the U.S.-Egypt Joint Economic Commission or JEC. 

I have had the good fortune of working with the U.S. Chamber in Washington and AmChams in Washington and with AmChams around the world, including last week when I had the pleasure of hosting members of AmCham Egypt in Washington, DC. Your organizations and members are vital partners in the Department of Commerce’s work. Thank you.

I cannot think of a better way to amplify the inaugural meeting of the JEC than with this distinguished gathering of Egyptian and American business and government leaders.

I am thrilled to be back in Cairo on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce and, in particular, the International Trade Administration. Our team is committed to building a more prosperous, inclusive and equitable economy through strengthening the competitiveness of U.S. industry and workers, promoting trade and investment, and ensuring fair trade practices. 
We would not be able to tackle this work and succeed without the collaboration of the businesses that so many of you represent. You are our clients, partners, and our eyes and ears on the front lines of commerce, both in Egypt—the largest U.S. export destination in Africa—and in markets around the world. 

Building on a century of diplomatic relations, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to strengthening and expanding the U.S.-Egypt strategic partnership. My main impetus for traveling to Egypt this week was to lead the U.S. delegation to the inaugural meeting of the JEC, which seeks to do just that: strengthen and expand the U.S.-Egypt strategic partnership. 

The JEC is a well-designed forum for our countries to work together to deepen economic, trade and investment ties. Doing so will promote shared prosperity, prepare our economies for the future, and forge resilience to absorb and effectively manage global economic shocks. Thanks to the partnership of the Egyptian government and the hard work of our Embassy here in Cairo, we are well on our way. 

Yesterday’s JEC was substantive and successful. It exceeded my already high expectations. The JEC will now enable us to make meaningful progress across a broad array of economic and commercial topics. They include bilateral investment, energy and the environment, sustainable infrastructure, supply chains, the digital transformation, food security and women’s economic empowerment. The breadth of these topics is a testament to the importance that we place on the JEC.

Both sides prioritized action over talk. We share the perspective that the JEC must generate not only insightful exchanges, but also meaningful outcomes—including those relevant to our private sectors.  

That is why, during our discussions yesterday, our U.S. delegation expressed our eagerness to cooperate with the Egyptian Government on sustainable infrastructure and logistics. Building on Egypt’s ambitious development agenda, we hope to promote fruitful partnerships with U.S. companies on major port, logistics and rail projects—delivering new pathways for commerce and growth that will bring jobs and prosperity to Egyptian communities. 

Turning to other sectors, we see opportunities for U.S. private sector companies to continue collaborating with the Egyptian Government—and especially MCIT— to realize the objectives of Egypt’s Vision 2030. 

Another area of robust discussion yesterday was energy and the environment, in which we are eager to build on Egypt’s leadership as President of COP27 to address the global climate crisis. We are keenly focused on reducing emissions, decarbonizing sectors, and exploring areas for collaboration. 

There are so many reasons to commend Egypt’s role as a regional energy hub and climate leader: the country’s leadership in the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, its adoption of the Kigali Amendment, and its focus on the decarbonization of the oil and gas industry. Building on this base, the JEC looked ahead to tangible opportunities for closer collaboration. In particular, we invited an Egyptian delegation to the United States to explore solutions for methane abatement. We also discussed our interest in working together in new areas such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel and reducing the carbon footprint of electricity through new models of distributed generation. 

These are just a few highlights from a day of rich discussions, with more to come as the JEC continues to take root. Yesterday’s JEC was just the beginning—not the end. 

The real work begins today with all of us. Both the Egyptian and the U.S. governments know that we can only follow through on the objectives of the JEC and generate mutual economic prosperity if the private sector is engaged as an active partner.

We need your help on a day-to-day basis to implement the cooperation contemplated in the JEC. In the coming weeks and months, our team will share more specifics about the types of projects that we and the Egyptian government have agreed to pursue.

I ask for your active participation in these projects and for your ongoing engagement and feedback in shaping the JEC. Looking at your AmCham agenda for today, I think it is safe to say that this spirit of engagement is nothing new to this crowd.

This afternoon, I will have the privilege of meeting with a group of dynamic women healthcare leaders to discuss Egypt’s Women’s Health Initiative, and how the U.S. government and private sector can better support this effort. 

From healthcare, to ICT, to infrastructure and logistics, I thank you for your engagement, and welcome your continued input—around issues related to the JEC and also across the entirety of the U.S.-Egypt commercial relationship.

Once again, thank you very much to AmCham Egypt and the U.S. Egypt Business Council for your partnership and the opportunity to join you today. Shukran.