Cablegate: Scenesetter for U/S Hormats Meeting with Minister


DE RUEHEG #2172/01 3230820
P 190820Z NOV 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 002172



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2019

REF: A. CAIRO 1793 B. CAIRO 1522 C. CAIRO 1550 D. CAIRO 2122 Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(SBU) Key points: - Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry (MOTI) Rachid Mohamed Rachid's visit to the U.S. comes as we are working to finalize a mechanism for advancing a bilateral dialogue on trade and investment issues as a follow up to a USTR-MOTI agreement signed in May 2009. - The Department of Commerce and MOTI have reached agreement on a memorandum of intent to establish a private sector-led US-Egypt Business Leaders Forum (BLF). The MOI is scheduled to be signed by Secretary Locke and Rachid during the visit. - MOTI input in developing a work plan for a strategic economic partnership for cooperation on trade-related and investment issues indicate a strong preference for technical assistance with decidedly less emphasis on standard bilateral trade issues. Once agreement is reached on the means for advancing this partnership, close USG interagency coordination will be vital in ensuring GOE commitment and active engagement to a broader trade and investment dialogue. - Egypt is the 9th largest export market for U.S. agricultural goods. The Department of Agriculture is working with MOTI to further liberalize Egypt's imports of US agricultural products. - MOTI is negotiating with the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to implement additional Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ's) in Upper Egypt. -------- Overview --------

2.(SBU) MOTI Minister Rachid is traveling to the US November 19-24. He will be in Washington on November 23 for meetings with you, Commerce Secretary Locke, and US Trade Representative Kirk. Since the change in the USG Administration, Rachid has engaged the USG on several fronts in an effort to reinvigorate US-Egyptian trade relations (see ref. A). There has been progress on two key deliverables: the development of a US-Egyptian strategic economic partnership and the establishment of a US-Egypt Business Leaders Forum (The MOI for which is to be signed on November 23).

3.(SBU) Rachid and Ambassador Kirk signed the Strategic Economic Partnership framework agreement in May 2009 which committed both sides to develop a work plan for cooperation on trade-related and investment issues. USG-GOE engagement on these issues will ultimately help in meeting Egypt's longer term economic goals and further expand access to Egyptian markets, particularly in the agricultural sector. Rachid's support of the May 2009 agreement strongly suggested a GOE commitment to a broad and long-term dialogue on trade-related and investment issues.

4.(C) In our discussions with MOTI over a work plan for such a dialogue, however, Rachid and his senior advisors have focused primarily on trade-related technical assistance, particularly as it pertains to the needs of MOTI and its goal of improving internal trade. MOTI's approach to these discussions suggests that Egypt will likely be slow to move from aid to trade.

5.(SBU) Rachid is also interested in further expanding the Qualifying Industrial Zone (QIZ) program, initiated in Egypt in 2004 to reward Egypt for its support for the Middle East Peace Process and to encourage Egyptian-Israeli trade ties by granting jointly-produced goods (at least 10.5 percent Israeli content) easier access to the U.S. market. In January 2009, the USTR designated factories in the Beni Suef and Minya governorates under the QIZ, and Rachid has written to Ambassador Kirk requesting the inclusion of additional governorates in Upper Egypt. USTR subsequently discovered significant discrepancies in the information the GOE had submitted in support of the Beni Suef and Minya designations. The GOE has yet to provide USTR-requested information clarifying what factories in these areas are eligible for QIZ certification. ---------------------- Business Leaders Forum ----------------------

6.(SBU) The US Department of Commerce and the Egyptian MOTI have agreed on a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) for the US-Egypt Business Leaders Forum. Secretary Locke and Minister Rachid will sign the MOI in Washington on November 23. The US-Egypt Business Leaders Forum (BLF) is to be a private sector-driven process to develop policy recommendations for both governments to improve US-Egyptian economic relations (see ref. B). The forum will focus specifically on promoting US-Egypt cooperation in business development, entrepreneurship, innovation, new technologies, and infrastructure. The GOE has already announced the Egyptian members of the forum, including representatives from four public entities. Ten U.S. companies have signed up for membership in the BLF including Apache, Cargill, Exxon-Mobil, Coca Cola, Monsanto, and Boeing. Several U.S. member representatives will join their Egyptian BLF counterparts accompanying Rachid to the MOI signing ceremony at Commerce. --------------------------- Strategic Trade Partnership ---------------------------

7.(SBU) The US-Egyptian strategic trade partnership, or Joint Forum on Trade and Investment, is intended to identify opportunities to expand bilateral trade, negotiate bilateral agreements, and identify opportunities for US technical assistance that can facilitate improved trade relations. The USG team, led by USTR and including State, Commerce, Agriculture and USAID, has been negotiating with MOTI a work plan for the Joint Forum along with an annex covering technical assistance, including through ESF funds. The Joint Forum will focus on the areas of trade facilitation, trade in services, intellectual property rights, agricultural trade, environment, labor, and investment.

8.(SBU) The Joint Forum work plan is near completion. USAID, in coordination with USTR, State, Commerce and USDA, is finalizing an annex to the agreement detailing potential areas of USG technical assistance. However, final agreement on work plan language is unlikely to be secured prior to Rachid's visit. Once agreement is reached, close USG interagency coordination will be vital in ensuring GOE continued commitment and active engagement to the broader trade and investment dialogue. ------------------------- Agricultural Trade Issues -------------------------

9.(U) US agricultural exports to Egypt (excluding fishery and forest products) increased from $1.7 billion in 2007 to $2.2 billion in 2008, and the US remains the largest exporter of agricultural products to Egypt. Despite being the 36th largest market for overall US exports, Egypt is the 9th largest market for US agricultural exports. Building on our strong agricultural trade relationship, the Department of Agriculture is seeking Egypt's cooperation in liberalizing imports of beef products, seed potatoes, poultry parts, and cotton from all US states. The US is also seeking Egypt's cooperation in ending quarantine inspections of wheat imports at port of origin and 100% inspection and testing of agricultural containerized shipments. Finally, the US in encouraging Egypt to use cash transfer program balances to purchase US commodities, and encouraging Egypt to pass a new bio-safety law that takes a science-based approach to agricultural bio-technology. --------------------------------- Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) ---------------------------------

10.(SBU) The QIZ program has been a success story since its launch in 2004, allowing certain Egyptian companies to export to the US duty-free under the US-Israel FTA, provided their products contain 10.5% Israeli input. Under the program, Egypt exported $744.7 million in goods to the US in 2008, accounting for nearly one-third of Egypt's total exports to the US. QIZ exports over the first three quarters of 2009 are up 3.5% from the same period in 2008, despite the financial crisis. The vast majority of Egypt's QIZ exports are textile products.

11.(C) As discussed in paragraph 5 above, USTR is waiting for GOE clarifications on discrepancies in information provided regarding designated factories in Upper Egypt. Despite the program's delayed expansion to Minya and Beni Suef, Rachid asked Ambassador Kirk in May 2009 to expand the QIZ program throughout the entirety of Upper Egypt, including Sohag, Assiut, Fayoum, Qena, Luxor, and Aswan governorates. In a recent meeting with the Egyptian embassy in Washington, USTR told the Egyptians that no further discussions on QIZ expansion could occur until the GOE provided the information requested relating to the January 2009 expansion. USTR is also awaiting MOTI's response on a mechanism to approve new investment in QIZs originally proposed by USTR in 2005. Although it has yet to reply to this "greenfield investment" proposal, the GOE continues to describe QIZ expansion as a means of attracting investment to Upper Egypt and other economically depressed areas. --------------------------------------------- - US-Egypt Trade Relationship- Facts and Figures --------------------------------------------- -

12.(U) -The United States is Egypt's second largest trading partner after the EU, accounting for 10.3% of Egypt's imports and 7.1% of Egypt's exports in 2008. -Egypt is the 36th biggest export market for the United States. -In 2008, the US exported $6.0 billion in goods to Egypt, and Egypt exported $2.4 billion in goods to the US. -In September 2009, Min. Rachid stated that he would like to double US-Egypt trade by 2013, bringing it over $16 billion. Scobey

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