Remarks at Top of Roundtable Discussion With Business Leaders

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Marriott Zamalek Hotel
Cairo, Egypt
March 2, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: I apologize to everybody for being detained, but I had a very, very spirited, as you can imagine, conversation with members of the opposition, and it was really valuable – very, very valuable. And I’m very grateful to them for taking the time to come and share thoughts. It was really a conversation – we could have gone on for a couple of more hours, and I wish I’d had the time actually to do that because I thought it was very productive.

But I particularly am glad to be back here in Cairo and back here with some of you I met previously and others for the first time. But this is my first trip to Cairo as Secretary of State, obviously, and a lot of things have been happening in the course of the last year, so I wanted to have a chance to be able to talk with you a little bit about the economic challenge that Egypt is facing.

We’ve been a longtime friend and partner, and the American people support Egypt and want its political and economic success. And we really look forward to being able to work with Egypt as it continues to play a very critical role in the region’s economy and in its security issues. We come here – I come here – on behalf of President Obama, committed not to any party, not to any one person, not to any specific political point of view, but filled with the commitment that Americans have to democracy, to a robust commitment to our values – to human rights, to freedom of expression, to tolerance.

And these are things that, historically, the strong civil society of Egypt has cared about. We believe it’s very important for the Egyptian people to come together around those values, but also to come together to meet the economic challenge at this particular moment. It is paramount, essential, urgent that the Egyptian economy get stronger, that it get back on its feet. And it’s very clear that there’s a circle of connections in how that can happen. To attract capital, to bring money back here that will invest, to give business the confidence to be able to move forward, there has to be a sense of security and there has to be a sense of economic and political viability.

And so we understand that. You have to get people back to work, and the energy of this country needs to hopefully be able to move from the streets to enterprise and to work and to daily life and to building the strength of that civil society. And so I’m here primarily to listen to you and you tell me what you think you need to do that. But it’s clear to us that the IMF arrangement needs to be reached, that we need to give the marketplace the confidence. And that very capable and entrepreneurial Egyptian Diaspora that is currently in many parts of the world with its capital, needs to feel comfortable that it could come back here and that there’s a viability in going forward.

So when I speak with President Morsy tomorrow, I will be speaking with him about the very specific ways that we, the United States, that President Obama, would like to see us engage, including economic assistance, support for private businesses, growing Egypt’s exports to the United States, investing in Egypt’s people through education. There are some very specific things that we need to do, and all of them we would only do in consultation with the government of this country. These are not things that we would do on our own without a government desiring it or wanting it or being part of it, obviously. But they are only things that we can do with the same confidence that you make your choices, knowing that Egypt is going to make the right fundamental economic decisions with respect to the IMF and that it stands ready to provide the foundation for sustainable and inclusive growth.

So we’re working on a number of initiatives towards supporting greater trade and business development. Last September, we brought more than 100 representatives from American businesses to Cairo in order to explore these very opportunities. We’re certainly ready to try to do that and try to do more. And I spoke in the last days with Prime Minister Qandil, with President Hollande of France, with Chancellor Angela Merkel, yesterday with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey – all of them are prepared to be helpful, but all of them believe that Egypt needs to make some fundamental economic choices.

The sad thing is that shortly after the visit of those 100 businesses last year, there was a problem in terms of the violence with respect to the Embassy and the community and it deterred people from following up on that. So a clear message: The United States is committed to helping Egypt become an economically successful, democratic nation. And I know that most of you here are – or all of you here are too. And I look forward for hearing from you your thoughts about the ways in which that can happen rapidly and what we can do most effectively to try to help make it happen. And I thank for listening to those opening comments.

On that note, I invite any members of the chamber or any of the businesses here to speak up. We’re going to – sorry – wait for the press. Apologize. Thank you all very much. Appreciate your being here.

PRN: 2013/T01-21