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U.S. Department of State
96/11/12 Address at Cairo Economic Conference
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN
TEXT AS DELIVERED November 12, 1996
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
AT THE CAIRO ECONOMIC CONFERENCE
Cairo International Conference Center
November 12, 1996
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: On behalf of President
Clinton, I want to express my deep gratitude to President Mubarak and to
the people of Egypt for hosting this third annual economic conference.
I also want to express my enormous appreciation to the more than 1,500
business people, from over 70 countries, who are attending this
conference. Their willingness to invest in a better future is what
brings us together here today.
We have come to Cairo, to this city of greatness -- ancient and
modern -- because we share a vision of a prosperous Middle East at
peace. We share a conviction that if this vision is to be realized, the
peace process must move forward in both its political and economic
dimensions at the same time. And we share a commitment to deepen the
partnership between governments and the private sector so that peace can
endure and thrive.
Today the world can look to Cairo, to this economic conference, as
a vote of confidence in the peace process -- a peace process that has
already brought us so far. And we can once again thank President
Mubarak for reminding the region and the world of the stake that we have
President Mubarak shares this great responsibility with other
leaders of wisdom and good will. Two years ago, King Hassan convened
the first Middle East and North Africa Economic Summit in Casablanca.
There we opened up a whole new dimension of the peace process to
complement the political negotiations launched in Madrid five years
earlier. Last year, King Hussein brought us together in Amman to build
new bridges of prosperity across old barriers of hostility.
It was also to the Economic Summit in Amman that Prime Minister
Rabin made his last journey for peace. The Prime Minister spoke to the
entire Middle East when he said this: "So far we have invested much
blood, much time, and much money in a product which may have been
essential for our national existences but of little benefit for our
citizens. We invested in war. Today, and from here on, we are
committed to invest in peace." Just one week later, sadly, tragically,
the peace process lost one of its strongest champions.
There is no doubt that the peace process has been tested -- tested
severely -- by the traumas in the last year since Prime Minister Rabin's
assassination. But over the last year, and especially in recent weeks,
the peace process has also demonstrated great resilience. Arabs and
Israelis alike know what war means. They have already glimpsed the
promise of peace. By looking back into the abyss, both Arabs and
Israelis recognized the imperative of moving forward.
Both Palestinians and Israelis, like all the peoples of the
region, have a fundamental self-interest in bringing this conflict to an
end. They understand that this decades-long conflict can long be
resolved in phases over time. They remain committed to resolve this
conflict through the structure of the negotiations that they have built
together. And they are coming to accept that without peace there can be
no security, and without security there can be no peace.
In the wake of the recent violence, Israel and the Palestinians
have pledged to uphold the agreements they have negotiated and carry out
the commitments they have made. The current negotiations have been
intensive and at times frustrating. But I believe that a final set of
very specific understandings on Hebron is close at hand. And once those
negotiations finally succeed, I urge the parties to move ahead with the
same urgency to implement the remainder of the Interim Agreement.
For these and future negotiations to succeed, each side must go
the extra mile to understand the needs of the other -- to take their
requirements into account. Each side must accept that to succeed, there
can be no winners and no losers. Each side must win and be seen to win
-- or both sides will lose. Each side must recognize that it is not
possible to make peace without taking risks -- but that maintaining the
status quo poses even greater risks for their future.
Each side should also know this: the United States will continue
to help them take those risks and support them along the hard, long
journey to peace. Peace in the Middle East is a vital national interest
of the United States. That is why President Clinton has made such a
strong personal commitment to stand with the peace makers at every step
of the way over the last four years. That is why the newly reelected
President and the next Secretary of State will continue to make the
advancement of the Middle East peace process a top priority over the
next four years.
There are historic gains to preserve, gains on which the parties
can build. There are two landmark agreements between Israel and the
Palestinians -- and pathbreaking cooperation to fight terrorism and
violence. There is the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan -- and a
new set of diplomatic and commercial contacts between Israel and its
Arab neighbors. There is the opportunity for a comprehensive peace that
includes Syria and Lebanon -- a peace that must finally be achieved if
this region is to enjoy real security. And there is, of course, the
founding pillar of peace still firmly in place -- and that is the peace
between Egypt and Israel.
We can see how far we have really come if we look at ourselves --
if we look at this economic conference. Despite all the setbacks and
uncertainties of recent months, more and higher-level business
representatives from around the world are here in Cairo than have ever
before assembled at one time in the region. You recognize opportunity
amidst the risk. And you are attracted by the reforms that are making
the Middle East and North Africa a more hospitable business environment.
Your profit strategies are perfectly complementary to our
strategies for peace. Private sector capital is the most direct way to
translate the abstract promise of peace into concrete benefits that can
lift the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people. By giving
individuals and communities a stake in peace, you can pave the way for
true reconciliation among peoples and nations. By crisscrossing borders
with new electrical grids, fiber optic cables and gas pipelines, you can
integrate the region's economies and make war ever less likely.
The process that we launched in Casablanca two years ago, and that
we renew today, will reinforce our partnership for peace and prosperity.
By bringing so many business people together, we are generating the
contacts that can lead to contracts. We are showcasing opportunities
available in our host country, Egypt, and the other countries
participating here. And we are giving fresh impetus to the new
institutions that will promote economic development and cooperation
across the region.
The Middle East-Mediterranean Travel and Tourism Association is
now established, with a secretariat in Tunis. It is working with the
private sector to develop the enormous potential for tourism that these
lands of miracles and monuments hold for us. And the Regional Business
Council is poised to become an important forum for exchanging business
information, publicizing investment opportunities, and developing ways
to support the private sector.
We are making progress toward opening the flagship regional
institution, the Middle East Development Bank. I am pleased to say that
the United States will sign the Bank's Charter next week and we will
send representatives to the Bank's Transition Team to Cairo later this
month. The Bank's mission is to be a catalyst -- to support key private
sector projects and to focus on the region's growing infrastructure
needs. The Clinton Administration will work with the new Congress to
gain strong American backing for the Bank so that it can become
operational by the end of next year. I urge other nations to come
forward now to support the Bank's funding needs.
For too long, this region has been held back by the ravages of
conflict and war -- and by the inefficiencies of statist and
protectionist economic policies. It faces a dual challenge if it is to
prosper. To compete effectively, this region must not only make peace.
It must reform.
Two years ago in Casablanca and again last year in Amman, I called
upon the governments of the Middle East and North Africa to meet this
challenge -- to modernize their economies, open up their markets, crack
down on corruption, and remove the bureaucratic bottlenecks and
regulatory obstacles that have for too long scared off investors and
drained away precious capital. Today we can see encouraging progress
across the region.
Here in Egypt, reform is brightening the prospects for growth and
attracting the interest of foreign companies and investors, as President
Mubarak so clearly outlined this morning. The government has already
privatized over 100 companies. It has cut tariffs on capital goods, and
eased registration procedures for investors. The new stand-by
arrangement with the IMF will help support Egypt as it consolidates
these and other business-friendly reforms, such as restructuring the tax
system. Egypt is also making important progress in strengthening its
protection of intellectual property rights. That is one reason why
Microsoft decided to open a regional office here in Cairo. Over 50
American companies now have manufacturing operations in Egypt,
demonstrating confidence in the growing potential of this market -- and
that number will certainly grow. The United States will continue to
develop our economic cooperation with Egypt through the partnership led
by President Mubarak and Vice President Gore.
Jordan's recent reforms, from adopting a new investment law to
lowering trade barriers, are also beginning to modernize its economy.
The capitalization of its stock market is increasing rapidly. American
companies, from Sheraton to Sprint, are seizing opportunities to help
Jordan build its infrastructure. I am delighted to announce that only
yesterday, the United States and Jordan signed an Open Skies Agreement
to fully liberalize commercial aviation between us. It is the first
such agreement we have reached outside of Europe, and I hope that we can
negotiate similar agreements with others in this region soon to make
both business and tourist travel more efficient.
Israel is also carrying out important reforms that are giving its
economy a new dynamism. Privatization is contributing to growth and
attracting foreign investment. Israeli and Arab business people from
virtually all the countries represented here today are forging links
that were inconceivable just several years ago. I am very encouraged by
Prime Minister Netanyahu's commitment to deepen economic reform. And I
am confident that trade and investment between the United States and
Israel and the other countries in this region will continue to expand.
Today I want to encourage greater American economic engagement
across the Middle East and North Africa -- from the dynamic Gulf States
to Morocco and Tunisia, two countries that are taking so many positive
steps to encourage trade and foreign investment. I also want to salute
the Israeli and Arab business people who have begun to build
relationships to move forward. You are definitely pioneers for peace,
and we need your courage and perseverance now more than ever.
But most urgently of all, I want to encourage you to invest in
peace where it can make the greatest difference. Economic conditions in
the West Bank and Gaza have not prospered as we had hoped. They must
improve -- and improve quickly -- if we are to give Palestinians a full
and tangible stake in peace.
We must work together to help the Palestinians build a prosperous
free market economy and overcome the barriers to the flow of goods,
services and people. President Clinton has recently signed legislation
to grant duty-free access for Palestinian exports to the United States.
We hope our major trading partners will take similar steps.
We are also working to establish special industrial zones that can
become magnets for investment, jobs and especially for hope.
As Secretary of State, in my frequent travel to this region, I
have spent the bulk of my time talking to government leaders and
diplomats. One reason I value these economic conferences so much is
that they give me a chance to speak to the business community so well
represented here today. When I am with you, I feel I am also addressing
the vast majority of the people in the region who speak the common
language of commerce and who share our vision of a better future. You
are indeed the constituency for peace.
You have already waited too long to see this region's borders
become open gateways, not fortified barriers, to trade and investment.
You have an interest in pushing for progress in the peace process. And
you have a responsibility to work with the governments of this region to
wipe out the barriers and boycotts and prejudices and taboos that
obstruct commerce and hold this region back.
We share a common purpose, and we have mutually supporting roles
to play. We both understand that there can be no lasting peace for the
Middle East without rising prosperity -- and that there can be no
lasting prosperity in this region without a deepening peace. If we
build on the diplomatic and economic progress we have already made, a
new millennium of peace and prosperity will soon dawn over these ancient
lands. Thank you very much.
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