Middle Eastern Trade

By Daley, William M. | Presidents & Prime Ministers, November 1999 | Go to article overview

Middle Eastern Trade


Daley, William M., Presidents & Prime Ministers


One of my jobs as Commerce Secretary is to oversee the Census. My goal is to get the most accurate count we can. Three months from today, you will be getting forms in the mail. I want to encourage all of you to fill out the form, and make sure your neighbors do the same.

The fact is, $200 billion in federal money is allocated every year based on how many people we count. For this community to get its share, we need your responses. In my opinion, the Census is the biggest job the government will undertake in the year 2000, other than the election.

I know how important this is to Detroit, and to the American Arab community, and we look forward to working with you. When I received an invitation a few months ago to speak tonight, who would have thought it would be on the day of peace talks in Washington between Syrians and Israelis.

Foreign Minister Shara and Prime Minister Barak met today and yesterday. President Clinton's role has been to try to be helpful and give encouragement where it's needed. But the deal has to be between the two parties. President Clinton said yesterday that for the first time in history there is a chance of a comprehensive peace between all the neighbors. Obviously, everyone would like to see all tracks progress. That means a Lebanese track. And that means a Palestinian track.

Just last week, Secretary Albright was in the Middle East. Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak again told her they hope to reach a framework agreement on permanent status by mid-February, and a final agreement within nine months. It is a bold objective, but both leaders feel it is achievable. To be honest with you, the hard issues they need to resolve won't get any easier with the passage of time. And they know it.

So, there is a new atmosphere in the Middle East, no doubt about that. We are closer to peace and putting an end to conflict between neighbors. In no way, shape, or form are we there, and it will not be easy getting there, but we should all be more optimistic than we ever have been.

The point I want to make tonight is this: even if we solve all the political issues in dispute, there still will not be a lasting peace, unless we also deal with the economic issues. Unless real people feel the benefits of peace in their daily lives, unless they have jobs and hope, in my opinion, peace won't take hold.

Just as what has happened in cities like Detroit in the last seven years, when economies have improved, crime has gone down, the people of the Middle East need jobs if their situation is to improve, also. The absolute best thing you could do as Americans of Arab descent, the best thing all America could do, is to help the Middle East write its next chapter, one called trade.

It would be good for the Middle East, but it would be good for Michigan, also. The Middle East is one of the few parts of the world, where we have had trade surpluses. Last year, Michigan companies exported almost $650 million in goods there. That is an increase of 7 percent over the previous year.

But the fact is, right now the Middle East lags behind other parts of the word for foreign investment -- it only receives 2 percent of all foreign investment in the word. Some of that is due to continuing concerns about the instability in the region. And some is due to the fact that it is harder to do business there than in other emerging markets.

The Middle East is seen as a market of 4 million here, and 5 million there, and 20 million over there -- rather than more than 200 million consumers. It is seen as economically isolated countries, rather than as a larger regional market, like Asia or Europe. Right now, only about 8 percent of Middle East trade is with other Middle Eastern countries. Contrast that with Europe -- where two-thirds of trade is with other European nations. Contrast that with what is happening in North America -- as you well know, our biggest trading partners are our neighbors -- Canada and Mexico. …

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