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Cablegate: Commerce Minister Shahrani Highlights U.S.-Afghan Business

VZCZCXRO3116
PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #3465/01 3020729
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 290729Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2598
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003465

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E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID ETRD BEXP ECON ELAB PHUM SCUL OPIC PGOV AF
SUBJECT: Commerce Minister Shahrani highlights U.S.-Afghan Business
Development

REF: Kabul 3184

1. Summary: Afghan Minister Shahrani praised current USAID-funded
Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development activities to Amb.
Wayne, noting especially USG support to strengthen Afghan
value-added in the carpet and cashmere industries. Shahrani also
wants to provide additional economic opportunities for women and
welcomed Amb. Wayne's suggestion to tap into the U.S.-Afghan Women's
Council. Shahrani noted success with USAID-sponsored job training
programs and industrial park development, and requested additional
support to expand both programs. End summary.

2. Afghan Minister of Commerce and Industries (MOCI) Wahidullah
Shahrani met Coordinating Director for Development and Economic
Affairs (CDDEA) E. Anthony Wayne October 22 to review and discuss
the progress of current USAID Afghanistan Small and Medium
Enterprise Development (ASMED) project activities. A German
technical advisor to the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan
(EPAA) and MOCI advisors accompanied the Minister. Embassy Kabul
USAID and ASMED staff and Deputy Economic Counselor accompanied Amb.
Wayne.

3. Minister Shahrani expressed appreciation for ASMED's support for
approximately ten international fairs annually, including the
upcoming International India Trade Fair (IITF) in which 40 Afghan
companies will participate. USAID and EPAA said they were reviewing
plans for Afghan participation in trade shows in Germany, Dubai, Las
Vegas, New York, and Seattle in the next year.

Increasing Value Added in Afghan Carpets...
-------------------------------------------

4. Minister Shahrani praised the carpet cut and wash facilities in
Jalalabad, installed through ASMED, and requested support for
additional facilities in the North and West of the country, where
there is significant carpet weaving. The ASMED-backed cut and wash
facilities function as regional cooperatives which local carpet
makers can utilize. USAID noted its plans to replicate its two
pilot facilities in Jalalabad and Kabul, incorporating the lessons
learned from those programs. USAID is also carrying out
environmental impact assessments for the new plants, to help ensure
chemicals in the waste water from the plants are properly mitigated.


... and Cashmere
----------------

5. USAID officers described efforts to tie ASMED's program to help
farmers improve goat and cashmere production with OPIC's investment
discussions to establish cashmere de-hairing and degreasing
facilities in Herat. OPIC visited Afghanistan in early October to
look at the Herati cashmere industry (reftel). The investment could
provide up to 75,000 full time equivalent jobs throughout the value
chain from herders to finishers. Minister Shahrani noted his
enthusiasm for the project and his recent meetings with OPIC in
Kabul as well as Washington.

Increasing Economic Opportunities for Women
-------------------------------------------

6. Minister Shahrani highlighted the important role that Afghan
women play in carpet production and other handicrafts and emphasized
efforts to improve quality and marketing should be expanded in order
to provide more opportunities for women. Ambassador Wayne mentioned
a number of possible resources, including the Afghan-U.S. Women's
Council, which advocates for female entrepreneurs. He said
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer has
expressed strong interest in supporting Afghan women and
facilitating networking between U.S. and Afghan entrepreneurs. The
Minister suggested the Herat's Women Association, which focuses on
handicrafts, would benefit from such assistance. USAID/ASMED
mentioned ongoing efforts to supply Sam's Club with Afghan high
quality traditional products of handicrafts, gemstones and carpets
in limited quantities in three to four outlets in California.

Training Afghans, Employment and Business Parks
--------------------------------------------- --

7. Noting his visit with Ambassador Wayne in Mazar-e-Sharif to an
ASMED training program at Balkh University, Shahrani said he was

KABUL 00003465 002 OF 002


very impressed with the quality of the graduates and requested the
number of internships be increased and the training course
lengthened and duplicated in other universities in Afghanistan. He
said the graduates were highly enthusiastic and had reported they
had already secured jobs. USAID officials noted over the past three
years 1050 interns from ten provinces had completed the program and
it is targeting 900 interns in the next year. ASMED plans to
introduce the program to an academic-private sector partnership to
provide sustainability. Ambassador Wayne recommended tracking
program graduates to measure the program's impact on long-term
employment.

8. Minister Shahrani was enthusiastic about the success of the
Bagrami Industrial Park in Kabul, now fully operational. He
mentioned his request to USAID (currently under review) to support
three additional industrial parks, in Senjid - Dara, Dawlatabad, and
Khost. Shahrani said MOCI could provide the land for the parks.
The USAID supported Industrial Park in Mazar-e-Sharif was completed
last year and seven companies have started building their
facilities. The industrial park in Kandahar is under construction.
Note: During TIFA discussions in Washington, Shahrani mentioned the
industrial parks as an Afghan-U.S. success story. End note.

EIKENBERRY

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