Aiding the Arab Transitions: US Economic Engagement with Egypt

DateOctober 3, 2012

Aiding the Arab Transitions:
US Economic Engagement with Egypt

On October 3, 2012, Stimson and Pathways to Progress: Peace, Prosperity and Change in the Middle East hosted a panel discussion entitled, "Aiding the Arab Transitions: US Economic Engagement with Egypt." The speakers were Caroline Atkinson, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for International Economics at the National Security Council; Ambassador William Taylor, Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions, US Department of State; and James Harmon, Chairman of the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund and Chairman and CEO of Caravel Management, LLC. Among the key observations and points noted, Egypt's potential role as an anchor for the Arab transitions given Egypt's strategic role in the region was highlighted. Egypt's current economic challenges encompass a range of issues from immediate stabilization challenges to longer term structural issues marked by a bloated public sector and an inefficient subsidies system. Egypt is also striving to build a more vibrant private sector by focusing on the promotion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Efforts include public-private partnerships that involve Americans, Egyptian-Americans and Egyptians working together to promote SMEs. As an example, the United States has launched the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund. Significant opportunities exist alongside these challenges. In particular, the United States is afforded an important opportunity re-build its relationship with the Egyptian government with whom the United States shares some clear overlaps of interest. The United States should take a longer-term view of Egypt's transition by putting recent demonstrations in Cairo in a broader perspective and continuing to engage on a range of economic issues and programs.The United States also seeks to support broader, multi-lateral efforts aimed at assisting with Egypt's transition. Going forward, preventing corruption, building accountability and engaging the informal sector will also be important.