Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Egypt’s isolation in Gaza (via Al-Monitor)

Mohannad Sabry argues that the Egyptian government’s diplomacy in the Gaza war falls short of previous mediation efforts and is “another phase of Egypt's growing political isolation since the war kicked off in Gaza.”
Sabry writes: “Egypt's manipulation of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip was politically cunning since Hamas' bloody takeover in 2007, and despite a few disruptive incidents, the situation has always been under control until 2013 when Egypt's military masterminds decided that neither Hamas nor its mother organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, are viable players. This war has clearly shown Hamas, Egypt and the world that Hamas is not the only player, neither are they the most popular in Gaza any longer — they are one voice among several powerful, popular and active others.”
Egypt seems to be coordinating its military operations with Israel against terrorist groups in the Sinai Peninsula. AnAl-Monitor correspondent reports on eyewitness accounts that suggest Israel was responsible for an armed drone attack against militants on July 23, although the Egyptian military took credit for the operation.
Bruce Riedel argues that Saudi Arabia’s priority in the Gaza war is to support its ally, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in his efforts to humiliate Hamas.
The kingdom’s Egypt-first strategy is complicated by King Abdullah’s deep personal commitment to the Palestinian cause and the admiration of many young Saudis for Hamas.
Riedel writes: “Abdullah and the other royal princes in Saudi Arabia are well aware that many Saudis, especially young people, admire Hamas for fighting against Israel. The royals are not eager to appear soft on Israel especially when gruesome images of dead children are appearing every night on Arab television.”

Turkey's Erdogan Claims Presidential Victory (via CFR)

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the country's first direct election for president on Sunday, with tallies showing him claiming just under fifty-two percent of the vote (Hurriyet). Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, his main challenger, followed up with 38.3 percent of the vote, while Selahattin Demirtas, a young Kurdish politician running on a left-wing platform, came in third with 9.7 percent. In his campaign, Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, vowed to transform the presidency(FT) from a largely ceremonial post to one of influence and power. On Monday the country's ruling AK Party, which Erdogan founded, will begin deliberations on the shape of the next government (Reuters), including the selection of a new party leader—likely to be a staunch loyalist.

L'éradication programmée des Frères égyptiens (via Le Monde)

Impavide, le pouvoir égyptien, incarné par Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi – l'ancien chef de l'armée investi président à la fin du mois de juin –, poursuit pas à pas l'objectif qu'il s'est fixé : l'anéantissement des Frères musulmans. Alors que la Confrérie fondée par Hassan Al-Banna en 1928 a été déclarée "organisation terroriste" en décembre, c'est désormais au tour de sa branche politique de voir s'abattre sur elle le couperet de la justice. La cour administrative suprême vient ainsi de prononcer la dissolution du Parti de la liberté et de la justice (PLJ), au motif que celui-ci aurait "violé la loi qui régit les partis politiques". Cette décision irrévocable et, partant, non susceptible d'appel, n'a toutefois guère surpris les hiérarques du PLJ, rapporte Gulf News. Depuis le pronunciamiento du 3 juillet 2013 contre Mohamed Morsi (issu des rangs des Frères musulmans), en effet, les islamistes font l'objet d'une féroce répression, souligne CNN. Ceux qui n'ont pas été condamnés à la peine de mort lors de procès généralement expéditifs croupissent en prison, sans espoir de libération. Cruelle désillusion pour le PLJ qui, avant cette descente aux enfers, avait remporté toutes les élections depuis sa création en avril 2011, au lendemain de l'éviction de Hosni Moubarak, rappelle Afrik.com. La Confrérie a vilipendé l'arrêt de la Cour, le qualifiant de"juridiquement nul" (Daily News Egypt). Cité par Middle East Eye, l'un de ses cadres, Mohamed Soudan, estime qu'il est une réaction politique au refus du PLJ de cesser ses manifestations de rue et de reconnaître Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi comme le raïs légitime du pays. Reste qu'en étant ostracisé de la sorte le mouvement ne pourra plus participer aux élections législatives prévues d'ici à la fin de l'année, note la BBC. Un pas supplémentaire vers le verrouillage du pouvoir par le nouvel homme fort du Caire...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Charles H. Rivkin remarks at "North Africa: Challenges and Opportunities in a Time of Transition"

Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce
Washington, DC
August 4, 2014


Good morning. Thank you Mr. De Marino for the kind introduction and thanks to the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce for hosting this important forum on North Africa.
We meet at a time when this region is undergoing the kind of changes that some would call momentous and promising but other more cautious voices might call uncertain and discouraging.
As a businessman in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years, my roots are in the private sector. And during that time, I never met a business opportunity that didn’t come with the Charles Dickens dilemma. What do I mean by that? I refer to the opening sentence of “A Tale of Two Cities.” I think we all know it: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
What I learned quickly was what I believe everyone in this room recognizes: the real question isn’t about identifying the challenges. That’s the easy part. The real question is about seeing the opportunity crouching behind those challenges.
North Africa at this moment, amidst the difficulties, presents a great opportunity for U.S. and local businesses alike, and increased trade and investment will achieve the kind of sustainable, meaningful growth that could transform the lives of people there.
The region has undergone tremendous – even tumultuous – change since 2011. And as we also know, those changes are still in motion – politically and economically. Youth unemployment is almost 30 percent, and young people make up a rapidly growing proportion of the working population.
A cautious person might only see uncertainty and young and restive populations. But behind those challenges are the opportunities: unique and unprecedented for the region. In fact, the infamous youth bulge is an extremely powerful asset that offers the potential for substantial growth in production and increased investment.
The very energy that led young people to demand changes is the same energy that has made them eager to find jobs, economic opportunity, and dignity in their lives. They are not only motivated, more and more of them are highly educated – and they are entering the workforce faster than jobs can be created for them.

Role of the United States
I’d like to talk briefly about the role the U.S. government is playing to help our partners realize this potential and how we are working to pave the way for businesses to flourish and commerce to expand.
Ultimately, the private sector needs to take the lead because – quite frankly – progress cannot happen without it. And with its assets, global reach and competitive capacity, it’s one of the most effective drivers to bring about positive and sustainable change in the region.
What we do to help the private sector is essentially threefold.
  • We promote market-oriented reforms – bilaterally and in conjunction with multilateral partners.
  • We foster home-grown entrepreneurship.
  • And third, we strengthen commercial ties led by U.S. businesses.
On the first point, we work to support reforms that address fiscal weaknesses, market rigidities, barriers to trade, government transparency, regressive and inefficient subsidies, and inadequate social safety nets.
Last month, for example, the U.S. government fully guaranteed Tunisia’s $500 million sovereign bond issuance. Tunisia can now borrow at lower rates than they otherwise could have.
As part of the guarantee, Tunisia committed to improve its social safety net, modernize tax and customs procedures, clarify investment regulations, and adopt a plan to resolve bank insolvency. This makes Tunisia more attractive to investors – and it helps bring jobs to both our economies.
Entrepreneurship – the second item I mentioned – is one of the best ways we can turn challenge into opportunity. First of all, it speaks to what we do best. Entrepreneurship is part of our DNA and is a cornerstone of our economic strength.
When we partner with the private sector we can not only reap economic opportunity for ourselves, we can address a major 21st century challenge: It is estimated that the world is going to need a half billion new jobs by 2030.
Right now, the U.S. Department of State is partnering with private partners worldwide to foster entrepreneurship. Through our Global Entrepreneurship Program, we are working with 100 private partners to build support systems for young entrepreneurs. And we’ve sent delegations to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia.
We also organize annual Global Entrepreneurship Summits that convene entrepreneurs, investors, and government representatives. Last year’s Summit, in Kuala Lumpur, brought together over 3,000 entrepreneurs, investors, academics, startup organizers, business people, and government officials from over 100 countries to help them network and develop their skills. This November, Morocco will host the fifth summit in Marrakesh, which should prove to be the best yet.
We also have ongoing engagements with entrepreneurs in North Africa. Through the Partners for a New Beginning North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity – or PNB-NAPEO – we are working with local chapters, multilateral companies such as Coca-Cola, and governments to identify and advance economic opportunities. And with the Global Innovation through Science and Technology – or GIST – initiative, we encourage young people in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and other emerging economies to commercialize their science and technology ideas to create new products and companies.
Thirdly, the State Department – and specifically the Economics and Business Affairs Bureau – takes a leading role in building trade agreements and investments and promoting commercial ties globally.
We have a Free Trade Agreement with Morocco, as well as Trade and Investment Framework Agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. And through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government is providing more than $400 million in financing and insurance in Egypt. This supports companies that work in transportation, finance, high-tech, energy, construction, and franchising.
Every day, our Ambassadors and economic officers advocate for U.S. businesses and investors abroad. Two of our most successful initiatives are our own Direct Line to Business program and our Business Information Database System, or BIDS. Through our Direct Line webinars, businesses can speak to our Ambassadors and officers in the field to get on-the-ground analysis of market conditions and opportunities. The programs also help businesses find out about new opportunities and give a snapshot of trends in the increasingly competitive global economy.
I’d like to share one example of how this plays out on the ground. We have worked with American biopharmaceutical companies encourage their buy-in to Algeria’s vision to create a local biotech cluster in Algeria – based on the ones in California and the Northeast Corridor. And recently, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America largest innovative pharmaceutical association here in the United States signed an MOU with the National Pharmaceutical Products Control Laboratory of Algeria to encourage innovation, employment and investment in their economy.
There are many more examples I could share – but they all point to one clear message: What the region needs is the initiative and the pioneering hand of the private sector.

Conclusion
It’s easy to forget what a rugged and unforgiving terrain the United States used to be. But it was the work of the private sector that built this country – from railroad magnates to bankers to bridge builders. And it took that first wave of far-sighted investment to literally pave the way for further investment and prosperity.
North Africa is a region where similar long term rewards await – requiring the kind of foresight and early investment that can lead to powerful and sustainable economic growth. The earlier the role that the private sector takes, the greater the prospects for the region’s democratic and economic futures, and the greater its own long term prosperity.
Thank you – and we are all looking forward to seeing what you can do in the immediate and long term future not only for North Africa but for Americans back home.

Introductions
  • I am honored to introduce four people with an extraordinary depth and breadth of experience in the increasingly overlapping worlds of business and diplomacy.
  • Henry Ensher, US Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria since March 2011, served as a Foreign Service Officer for 27 years in Mexico, Muscat, Tunis, Damascus, Jeddah, Algiers, and Tel Aviv. He has served as political and economic section chief, and has worked in the commercial and public diplomacy programs. And his most recent chapters have included extensive and highly influential postings in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is a fluent speaker of Arabic and Hebrew. And he has received the Department of State Award for Heroism and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service.
  • Ambassador Dwight Bush, Sr., has more than 30 years of international corporate banking experience for Chase Manhattan Bank, as well as other banking and financial companies and organizations from Sallie Mae to the Urban Trust Bank. He is the president of D. L. Bush & Associates, a Washington, DC-based financial advisory and business consulting firm. And he has worked with a variety of philanthropic and education institutions, including Cornell University, Xavier University and the National Symphony Orchestra.
  • Jake Walles, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Tunisia since July 2012, was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, which included U.S. policy with respect to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians. For more than 20 years, he was an active participant in U.S. efforts to promote peace in the Middle East dating back to the 1991 Madrid Conference. He’s a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor, and the recipient of a Presidential Rank Award in 2007 and the Department’s Superior Honor Award in 2001 and 1994 for his work in promoting peace in the Middle East.
  • Charge d’Affaires for Mauritania Martha Patterson served most recently as Deputy Chief of Mission in Slovakia. Her career as a foreign service officer is also extensive: from Economic Counselor in Islamabad to Economic Chief on the Russia Desk; and from Turkmenistan to Tajikistan. She has served in Iraq three times. She has been the Gaza political officer based in Tel Aviv. And she spent many years serving in Eastern Europe during the challenging 1990s and early 2000s. She speaks Russian, Serbo-Croatian, claims to have forgotten much of her Arabic, and is currently working on her French.
  • All of them have come through different paths … all with their own sets of expertise … but all of them understand deeply that political and economic progress, as well as prosperity and security, all go hand in hand. And I look forward to hearing those different perspectives over the course of this important forum.

John KERRY Remarks at the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Ministerial

Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
World Bank
Washington, DC
August 4, 2014



Well, President Kim, Jim, thank you very, very much for your welcome. Welcome to all of you here, and I appreciate your – the substance of your comments. And I also appreciate your generous comments regarding my privilege of being here as Secretary. (Laughter.)
This is a very exciting week for us here in Washington, and we are really thrilled to welcome everybody here on this particular discussion and many others that are going to take place. And I need to beg your indulgence at the beginning of my comments. I have to speak and run, so to speak, because I have a series – we have so many presidents in the city over the next few days, that I am beginning a marathon of bilat meetings this morning, as well as trying to fit in the number of events that we have. I know you will understand that.
I thank Jim Kim for his tremendous leadership of the bank and for hosting us here today. I want you all to know that one of the things I admire most about Dr. Kim is that wherever he has been in his life, whatever leadership role he has served in, this is a man who’s been willing to challenge the status quo. And that was true when he found innovative ways to deliver healthcare in the Partners in Health. It was true when he applied himself to finding new ways to provide care for HIV and AIDS at the World Health Organization, and when I was in the Senate I did some work with him on that. And then it was true when he balanced the budget and led Dartmouth College through its critical period of transition. So we welcome his leadership here.
What I think many of you may not know is that when he was in high school, he was a quarterback. And those of you who know American football have to just imagine what it was like for this young guy about 10 years after he arrived in America. He was facing down big, Midwestern linebackers – (laughter) – and there’s no better preparation for today’s world and life than that.
A few decades later, he was working – revolutionizing, really, how HIV and AIDS was going to be dealt with. And I was in the Senate, and we were working then to try to find a way to create stronger trade links with Africa, particularly with sub-Sahara Africa.
And for several years, with the help of somebody you all know well, I think – Jim McDermott, a former Foreign Service officer and member of Congress at the time – we discussed creative ideas about how to break down the barriers to trade while at the same time lifting up the standards for governance and for transparency. And the result of those early efforts was, in fact, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act that President Clinton signed into law in the last months of his presidency.
So for 14 years now – as Michael Froman said, this is the 13th meeting annually – but for 14 years, AGOA has been one of the primary tools to push forward greater trade and investment in Africa. And guess what? It is working. We’ve seen imports from AGOA nations grow by 300 percent. Whether it’s cocoa and cashews from Ghana or textiles from Mauritius or petrochemical products from Angola, AGOA has served as a catalyst for greater trade and prosperity, and it’s helped to promote greater protections for the African workforce.
And yes, we do have some of our own interests on the line here too, and I say it upfront. For instance, AGOA has made it possible for Ford Motor Company to export engines duty-free from South Africa, where Ford has invested over $300 million so they can supply engines worldwide. And the efficiencies of that operation have allowed Ford to create 800 new jobs at their Kansas City plant as part of the global production line. This is how it works, and this is what Africa’s witnessing now with I think something like 10 of the 15 fastest-growing countries in the world in Africa.
From day one in the White House, President Obama’s number-one priority has been creating strong middle class jobs here at home, but the President has always understood that the best way to do that is to strengthen our international economic ties and foster broad growth globally. Everybody here understands how interconnected we all are. Our populations are increasingly, all of them, walking around – in some countries more than others – with mobile devices. Everybody is connected to everybody every moment of the day, and that is changing the way people think. It’s changing their sense of possibilities. It’s changing aspirations and it’s changing realities of politics on the ground.
As President Obama has said, “Africa is a new center of global growth.” Since 2000, banking assets have more than doubled. The telecommunications market has doubled since 2004 alone. And we know that Africa will have a larger workforce than India or China by 2040. So it’s time simply to get ahead of the curve, to invest in education above all for the vast numbers of young people, and the increasing numbers of people who because of today’s interconnectedness are demanding their part of the future. That is much of what has been happening in places where we’ve seen tremendous upheaval of recent days, whether it’s been Tunisia or Egypt or Syria, elsewhere. It’s young people who motivated and energized those initiatives initially because of their sense of desire, frustration for the possibilities of the future.
So it’s time to build a more open exchange of ideas and information. That’s part of the reason President Obama thought of doing the summit that he’s having this week here in Washington. It’s to lead to greater partnership, to build our capacity for innovation, and AGOA is one of the best tools – most vital tools for pushing forward the dramatic transformation that we’re seeing today in parts of Africa.
So this is clearly a moment of opportunity for all Africans. It’s also, I say to you frankly, a moment of decision. Because it’s the decisions that are made or the decisions that are deferred that will ultimately determine whether Africa mines the continent’s greatest natural resource of all, and that is not platinum, it's not gold, it's not oil; it’s the talent and capacity and aspirations of its people.
The entire Obama Administration wants to unleash the potential, both for the benefit of the people of Africa, and to create greater prosperity for the world. President Obama is committed to that transformation, and with a seamless renewal of AGOA, the question is: Will we continue to create shared prosperity and a better future for both the people of the United States and the people of Africa and all of the others who benefit as a consequence? That is really the bottom line of what we are working to achieve today, and what we will work towards in anticipation of next year’s AGOA Forum in Gabon, the first ever in Central Africa, is to achieve this goal.
So I say unabashedly: We want and we will work hard to get more American companies to invest in Africa. We also want more African companies to invest here in the United States, and there’s no reason that they shouldn’t. The fact is, today, Africa is increasingly a destination for American investment and tourism, and African institutions are increasingly leading efforts to solve African problems. All of this underscores that dramatic transformation is possible, and it’s possible in the next few years. Prosperity can actually replace poverty, and cooperation can actually triumph over conflict.
So we know that our cooperation, all of us, is essential in order to promote economic growth that is shared by all Africans. I will say to you fighting corruption is a definitive, critical part of that process. To do so will take courage, and yes, it sometimes means assuming risks. But fighting corruption lifts more than a country's balance sheet. Transparency and accountability attract greater investment. Transparency and accountability create a more competitive marketplace, one where ideas and products are judged by the market and by their merits, and not by a backroom deal or a bribe. The market always works better with transparency, with the sunshine of accountability. That is an environment where innovators and entrepreneurs can flourish, and I guarantee you it is an environment where capital makes a decision to move according to its sense of security and its sense of risk.
So ladies and gentlemen, Africa can be the marketplace of the future. Africa has the resources. Africa has the capacity. Africa has the know-how. The questions Africa faces are similar to those confronting countries all over the world: Is there the political will, the sense of common purpose to address challenges? Are we all prepared together to make the hard choices that those challenges require?
We firmly believe – and I think you will sense, those of you who are here for all of the next three days, at the end of this summit, the end of these meetings, I believe you will have a clear sense of the fullness of the commitment of President Obama and the Obama Administration and the United States to the notion that Africa is a natural partner of the United States and vice versa. And we believe that the United States can be a vital catalyst in Africa’s continued transformation.
It’s exciting, the possibilities are endless, and we really look forward to working with you to fulfill the full measure of possibilities. So now I’d like to introduce a – reintroduce the person who opened this. He doesn’t need another introduction, but he’s been working on these things, the ties between the United States and Africa, for a long time within the Treasury Department, at the National Security Council, at Citibank, and he now serves as President Obama’s principal advisor on international trade, Ambassador Michael Froman.