CAIRO: In his first statement since Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid announced that Taher Helmy will be heading the US-Egypt Business Council, Helmy emphasized that the role of the council is to enhance trade and investment between Egypt and the US.
Helmy, a partner at Baker and McKenzie international law firm and former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce, was appointed president of the Egyptian side of the council.
He will head a team of 16 Egyptian private sector business leaders as well as leading figures in a variety of sectors: Ra’ed Hisham, Walid Galal Al Zorba, Sherine Maher Iskandar, Basel Osama Al Baz, Hassan Mohamed Al-Khatib, Akil Beshir, Maguid Gorege El-Sab’a, Ahmed El-Wekil, Amr Mohamed Badr, Hisham Hussien Al-Khizendar, Amr Al-Garhy, Allaa El Din Hassouna El-Sab’a, Mohamed Saleh Younis, Hisham Ramez Abdel Hafez, Layla Mostafa El-Baradei and Abdel Moneim Said.
Although it shares the same objectives as the American Chamber of Commerce in terms of enhancing bilateral commercial ties between the two countries, this council is different in structure, said Helmy.
“The council will bring together business leaders from Egypt and the US for a variety of goals, especially to remove impediments that could obstruct trade, he added.
He emphasized that the council is a private sector not a governmental entity, but that it works closely with the governments of both countries. The extent of this cooperation has, however, not yet been fully outlined.
The Council plans to hold its inaugural meeting next November in Washington.
According to us.egypt.org, established originally as the Presidents’ Council in April 1995, the US-Egypt Business Council was restructured after meetings between President Hosni Mubarak and President George W. Bush in 2001, and again in September of 2005.
In February of 2006, the co-chairman of the Egyptian side of the Council Mohamed Mansour, was appointed by President Mubarak as the Egyptian Minister of Transport.
In March 2006, Galal El-Zorba (previously the co-chairman of the Egypt-US Business Council for the term period of 2001-2005), was re-appointed for another term as the new Egyptian Side Co-Chairman.
The decision to re-launch the council, said Helmy, was partly in response to the existence of a new US administration.
“Times have changed, there’s a new administration in the US and the global financial situation is different. There are new challenges and new objectives on the local, regional and international levels, he said.
Helmy stressed the need to work with the US to find common objectives and to bridge the gap between the private sectors of both countries.
“We need to find a common agenda in order to move forward in light of global challenges for the mutual benefit of both private sectors, Helmy added.
The US had different priorities during the Bush administration, and so did Egypt. It is time to frame the priorities based on the needs of US and Egyptian corporations on the highest level.
With new challenges, it is necessary to come up with different solutions, said Helmy, that will require a new plan of action.
He did not, however, project that the pursuit of a Free Trade Agreement with the US would be a top priority, highlighting the fact that there are many other ways to further enhance economic cooperation between both countries.
“The fields of education and training, human resource development, infrastructure projects, corporate governance, trade barriers, WTO issues, labor law and environmental issues will all be on the agenda, he explained.