US Deputy Secretary of State, Thomas Niddes Addresses @Mecaccexports: Trade Not Aid

PITAPOLICY covered the developing smile by raising a glass of Coca-Cola to her mouth.  “If a camel gets his nose in a tent, his body will follow,” opened US Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Thomas R. Nides.   He described his hopes for American business in the Gulf country region (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait) and named Arab countries in transition as well.  If the camel’s nose is American business, then is the camel’s body more American business?

Washington, DC~The US Chamber of Commerce hosted the Middle East Council of American Chambers of Commerce.  The event followed the Bahrain’s Ambassador to the US, H.E., Houda Nonoo’s reception, which offered a few business cases for expatriates to continued expanding business in Bahrain–despite the political unrest.  According to H.E. Ms. Nonoo, Bahrain has “demonstrated its commitment to change” as the region is “rising to speak truth to power”.   She also explained that the unrest in Bahrain was due to the demand for better job opportunities that was hijacked by a political opposition exploiting this need.  (How has Coca-Cola responded to the need for employment opportunities? )

She noted both Kraft’s and Coca-Cola’s growing economic presence in the region.  PITAPOLICY noted Coca-Cola plans on spending an estimated $200 million in expansion projects in MENA.

The theme of the first evening was strengthening “institution building”; theme of the second evening was “good diplomacy is good economics; good economics is good diplomacy”.  At first glance, the themes appear unrelated.  Also, PITAPOLICY is trying to reconcile the institution theme with the recent media institutional fiasco last week.

On Tuesday evening, the US Deputy Secretary of State, Thomas Niddes expounded on 3 points:

  1. Good Diplomacy is good economics, and vice versa.
  2. Trade NOT Aid – Trade & Investment must supplement since development assistance, alone, cannot lead to private sector growth.
  3. Championing American Business – American business needs to be able to work in an economy that is better than just “who you know” to get things done.

Similar FTAs, like the one in place between the US and Bahrain, are also helpful–but require a few improvements.  In vein with previous American economic stated interests: the US wants to see strengthened rule of law, protection of intellectual property, and improved customs regime.   Specifically, Niddes added, the decision to engage with Egypt and Iraq is economic, not out of charity.  Ironically, Niddes reminded everyone in the audience (including the Bahraini officials present) that democratic reforms can deliver economic results.

Event sponsors included Exxon Mobil and Emirates Airlines.  Congressman Mick Mulvaney, (R-SC, 5th District) provided encouragement to American businessmen visiting from Pennsylvania, North Carolina (RTI International) and New York to continue working with their Chambers of Commerce.  In particular, he highlighted how his office received over 100 constituent queries to expedite export opportunities to the Middle East & North Africa region (MENA) after he supported a forum in his home district.  As a junior Congressman, Mulvaney serves on the House Budget Committee and the Joint House/Senate Economic Committee.

Based on Deputy Secretary Niddes referenced proverb, the Bahrain officials at the first table hope that other American businesses will follow.  However, seeing that both events attract more than just businessmen, and the first of his three points, maybe the camel’s body is not just other American businesses.


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