For decades, relations between Egypt and the United States have been grounded in a mutual commitment to goals that we share because they are vital for advancing peace, prosperity and stability in the Middle East.
Today, Egypt and the United States are economic and security partners, working together to develop the region and defeat the shared threat posed by global terrorist networks. Egypt remains a force for stability and moderation at a time when large parts of the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing unprecedented security challenges.
And given growing global threats and Egypt’s strategically critical location, Egypt-U.S. relations are more important than ever. During his first United Nations General Assembly as President, Abdel Fattah El Sisi was only one of three heads of state or government to have a formal bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and they both reasserted the importance of the relationship. President El Sisi called the strategic partnership “a stable and strategic one” while President Obama said “the U.S.-Egyptian relationship has been an important cornerstone of our security policy and our policy in the Middle East for a very long time.”
Egypt has long been among the United States’ most reliable and influential allies. Egypt’s regional leadership, skilled and educated population and geo-strategic location render it an invaluable partner in advancing a broad range of U.S. interests.
The two countries first established diplomatic relations in 1922, following Egypt’s independence from protectorate status under the United Kingdom. With the signing of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, Egypt and the United States established a special economic and military assistance relationship. Since then, Egypt and the United States have engaged in consistent collaborative efforts to expand commercial ties, increase foreign direct investment, ensure safe transit through the Suez Canal, modernize the Egyptian military and fight terrorism. Just one indication of this unique bilateral relationship came in 2009 when President Obama chose Cairo University as the venue for his historic address to the Muslim world.
Egypt and the United States share a common understanding that implementing solutions to persistent challenges in the Middle East requires continuing and further strengthening cooperation between our nations. Put simply, an economically strong and politically stable Egypt is critical to achieving U.S. goals as well as those of America’s allies in the region.
Because of its regional influence and geographic location, Egypt is America’s key partner on shared goals of peace and stability throughout the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. The two countries maintain close military-to-military relations, predicated on the shared view that a strong and modern Egyptian military contributes to regional stability. The U.S.-Egypt relationship has also grown to include cooperation on counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, peacekeeping operations in Africa, deepening regional economic integration and other shared endeavors.
The 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty has been a crucial foundation for all subsequent efforts toward broader peace in the Middle East. Continued Egypt-U.S. collaboration is integral to further progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace. Secretary of State John Kerry praised Egypt’s “pivotal role” in fostering a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas following weeks of bloodshed in Gaza in 2014. Egypt subsequently hosted a donors conference raising over $5 billion for reconstruction efforts.’
Elsewhere, Egypt is proud to participate in eight United Nations peacekeeping operations out of the 15 operations currently underway worldwide, with a total of 2,613 personnel. Egypt is ranked 10th among the international contributors to peacekeeping operations key to international stability.
As one of the nations on the front line of the regional war on terrorism, Egypt is America’s key partner on shared goals of security, peace and stability throughout the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. With deadly extremism on the rise, both nations face unprecedented security challenges.
Strong security ties between Egypt and the United States enhance the campaign against global terrorism, increasing the collective security of both nations.
As coalition partners against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Egypt is working with the United States and the international community to provide intelligence, cut off sources of terrorist funding and recruitment, and utilize Egypt’s esteemed religious institutions to discredit extremists and promote moderation and tolerance. Senior Egyptian officials participate in coalition meetings around the world to better coordinate strategy and operations. And President El Sisi is leading the Arab world in evoking a new dialogue to confront fringe extremism. He has called on the nation’s leading clerics to reinforce the tolerant teachings of Islam and reject radicalism, undercutting one of the root causes of terror.
The U.S. also provides critical support to Egypt in the campaign to defeat ISIS and al Qaeda-linked terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula. As a State Department spokesperson stated in the wake of one of Egypt’s deadliest terror attacks in decades, the U.S. “continues to support the Egyptian government’s efforts to counter the threat of terrorism in Egypt as part of our commitment to the strategic partnership between our two countries.” Additionally, the State Department has designated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the deadliest terror group operating in Sinai, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The terror group recently pledged allegiance to ISIS, changing their name to Sinai Province in the process.
Central to this is ongoing U.S. military support. This includes the recent delivery of U.S.-made Apache helicopters essential to Egypt’s ongoing fight to against deadly terrorism that threatens innocent civilians and security forces on a daily basis. The Apaches are a strategically important piece of military equipment to the fight against terror groups operating in Egypt and aligned with ISIS. This fight has broad implications across the region and ongoing American military support to Egypt is a crucial component of the broader war against terror.
Today’s joint efforts to combat terrorism are built on decades of cooperation. Egypt is one of the founders of the global Counter Terrorism Forum, a multilateral counter terrorism (CT) platform that focuses on identifying critical civilian CT needs, mobilizing the necessary expertise and resources to enhance global cooperation. Egypt and the U.S. co-chair the working group on criminal justice and the rule of law. This joint leadership demonstrates the Forum’s commitment to combating and preventing terrorism with approaches that are compliant with the rule of law and international human rights obligations.
The United States is Egypt’s largest single trading partner, with volume reaching $6.8 billion in 2013. Each year, Egypt expands and deepens its trade and investment relationship with the United States.
Recent bilateral exchanges underscored the renewed vitality of Egypt’s economy and the importance of ongoing economic cooperation. In October of 2014, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew travelled to Egypt and announced a $200 million package to support Egypt’s economy. During his visit, Secretary Lew stressed the importance of the commercial relationship between our countries, stating that the “well-being of the Egyptian economy is an important US interest.” The following month, 150 executives from nearly 65 major US companies travelled to Egypt and made history as part of the Chamber of Commerce’s largest international trade delegation.
Private sector engagement with U.S. government support will continue to be a vital component of our economic partnership for years to come. U.S. exports to Egypt grew 25 percent in 2014. Egypt remains the third largest Arab market for U.S. goods and among the top 10 foreign direct investors in Egypt. The largest American company doing business in Egypt, Houston, Texas’ Apache Corporation, has investments totaling over $10 billion. Other prominent American companies—including Coca Cola, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson and Marriott, among others—consider Egypt a major regional business hub. Illinois’ Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company was one of a select group of companies awarded a contract to help dredge a second channel in the Suez Canal. U.S. Government development agencies help facilitate public-private collaboration that allows US companies to enter or expand operations in a growing foreign market.
Egypt and the United States also are partners in liberalizing trade relations, including the inclusion of Egypt as a beneficiary country under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the establishment of Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs), which allows duty-free entry to manufactured goods combining Egyptian and Israeli components from designated industrial areas. Egypt and the United States finalized a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 1999. Approximately 37 percent of Egypt’s trade with the U.S. is routed through Texas and Louisiana, and the Port of South Louisiana is the premier site for wheat and oilseed imports to Egypt.
Egypt’s exports to the United States are among the most diversified in the Middle East, including petroleum, apparel, fertilizers, chemicals and textiles. Egypt’s investments in the United States witnessed a significant boost in 2011 when Egyptian Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) invested $1.8 billion to create the Iowa Fertilizer Company (IFC). The plant is under construction and currently employs 1,900 construction workers in rural Iowa, representing the single largest investment in the history of Iowa and creating in total roughly 2,500 employment opportunities.
America’s Economic Support Funds are another pillar of our economic partnership, contributing to economic growth and supporting Egypt’s efforts to provide vital social services to our most vulnerable citizens.
America’s strategic partnership with Egypt extends beyond diplomatic and commercial initiatives to encompass a wide range of educational and cultural initiatives that forge lifelong friendships from Los Angeles to Luxor.
U.S. agencies and Egyptian ministries frequently partner on sectoral projects, which include granting export access to the United States for Egypt’s expanding fruit and vegetable markets and forging new ties between Egyptian and American institutions of higher learning. The State Department’s largest exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, sends dozens of Egyptians to the U.S. each year for two to three week professional tour of the United States.
Our nations also partner to preserve Egypt’s rich cultural heritage through organizations such as the Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project, a collaboration between USAID and Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. The Government of Egypt and the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities, based at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., have also launched a public-private partnership to combat cultural racketeering in Egypt. The collaboration aims to “harness the power of Western and Egyptian cultural and business leaders to protect Egyptian antiquities.”
Health and medical cooperation remains a top priority, yielding nearly $1 billion in U.S. investments in Egyptian health and wellness over the past three decades. The United States has also been a critical partner in Egypt’s renewed push for expanding polio vaccinations to prevent a return of the crippling disease.
While based on twin pillars of security cooperation and economic collaboration, Egyptian-U.S. relations are diverse and deep, inspired by mutual cultural touchstones and a common on focus on heritage, history and global leadership. As the relationship continues to grow, new opportunities will continue to emerge, benefitting the people, industries and governments of both nations in important ways.