Kerry urges firms to invest in Egypt, praises economic reforms

Kerry said more private investment could help Egypt’s economy achieve annual growth rates in double digits

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday urged business executives to invest in Egypt, praising the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for “bold” economic reforms aimed at restoring investor confidence.

Addressing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Egypt on the sidelines of an investment conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, Kerry said more private investment could help Egypt’s economy achieve annual growth rates in double digits.

Also read: Gulf states offer $12.5 billion aid to Egypt

He pledged U.S. support for further reforms, which he said would make doing business in Egypt easier and protect foreign investments.

“The United States is eager, ready and willing to be a catalyst in Egypt's economic development and we respect the efforts you're already making and we want to help,” Kerry said.

Egypt hopes the conference will help boost investment in an economy still recovering from years of political turmoil after a 2011 uprising toppled veteran leader Hosni Mubarak.

Investment Minister Ashraf Salman told Reuters he expected Egypt to clinch deals at the summit worth $15-20 billion.

Kerry was due to meet President Sisi on Friday as well as Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

A senior State Department official said Egypt had taken “meaningful” reforms over the past year, including tackling wasteful fuel subsidies and refining the tax code.

The United States is among Egypt’s top three trade partners and U.S. firms are the second-largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Egypt.

FDI flows in Egypt have declined since 2009 but are now picking up, says the International Monetary Fund. It has put FDI over the past three years at just 1.5 percent of Egypt's gross domestic product.

In his meeting with Sisi, Kerry is likely to discuss economic and regional issues, including the security situation in neighboring Libya and in Egypt’s Sinai region and the growing threat from Islamic State militants, the official said.

ISIS’ Egypt wing has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in the Sinai Peninsula that killed more than 30 members of the security forces in January.

Kerry is not expected to pledge military assistance to Egypt during his two-day visit despite Sisi's calls for such aid. The official said the U.S. delegation wanted to keep the focus on economic investment.

Washington normally sends $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to Egypt each year but suspended transfers in protest over the ousting of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi, in 2013 and a violent crackdown on protesters.

Last April Washington said it would deliver 10 Apache attack helicopters to support counter-terrorism operations in Sinai

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