Daley Envisions Middle East Prosperity

Secretary to Encourage Regional Cooperation on Trip

By Kristin Bateman Special to the Hoya

U.S. Secretary of Commerce William Daley stressed the important connections between a prosperous regional economy and lasting peace in the Middle East in a speech yesterday in Gaston Hall.

Daley will embark this weekend on an 11-day trip to promote economic development and regional cooperation in the Middle East. He hopes that this departure from Middle East tradition will provide an incentive for foreign businesses to invest in the region.

Representatives of the telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and information technology industries will join Daley in his trip to Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Daley said.

It is important, he said, to take advantage of this time of prosperity to establish industries other than oil. “When the times are good is the time to diversify,” said Daley.

Daley said he would emphasize the importance of governmental reforms, such as increased protections of intellectual property, lower tariffs and increased access to markets, in order to diversify the economy. “If businesses don’t feel confident that their investments are protected,” explained Daley, “they will not go there.”

Investors will be attracted to the region by both the pace and direction of economic reforms as well as the possibility of privatization. Daley said he would encourage the governments of the iddle Eastern countries to engage in dialogue with leaders of the private sector in order to get their feedback on reforms that are working.

Reforms in education will also be necessary to boost foreign investments in the region, Daley said, because companies will need competent workers. These reforms will benefit everyone in the region by providing jobs.

“As they write a new chapter in peace,” Daley said, “they can also write a new chapter in regional commerce.”

Improved intra-regional commerce, Daley said, would draw foreign investors to the region, for the market, instead of being the small one of an individual country, would be one “that has the potential size of the United States.” Currently only 8 percent of Middle Eastern trade is within the region, while approximately two-thirds of European trade is within Europe.

One obstacle to improved regional commerce, Daley said, is tension between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Because of tight security, it is difficult for companies to transport goods back and forth. The recent opening of an airport and seaport in Gaza have made it easier to transport goods within the region, but there is still much room for improvement.

Daley said he would encourage the use of technology such as x-ray machines to eliminate the cumbersome unloading and reloading of trucks now required at security checkpoints. Also, Daley suggests giving certain reputable companies special status so they do not have to go through lengthy security checks.

The McDonough School of Business and the Lecture Fund sponsored Daley’s speech.

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