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Deputy Secretary's Speech


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Tuesday, October 14, 2008


U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce John J. Sullivan
Remarks to the U.S.-Palestinian Investment Forum
Washington, D.C.

Thank you Ziad Asali for your introduction and for all that the American Task Force on Palestine has done and is doing to promote the development of a growing and vibrant Palestinian economy.

As you heard from Secretary Rice and other administration officials today, this Administration continues America’s longstanding pledge to promote peace in the Middle East. President Bush is the first president to call for an independent, free and prosperous Palestinian state. This goal remains unchanged, and our commitment to your success remains unwavering.

Today’s conference is another symbol of that commitment.

I attended the first Palestinian Investment Conference in May where I had the opportunity to meet many of you. In Bethlehem I personally witnessed the dedication of leaders like Prime Minister Fayyad to improving the environment for business.

On the same trip, I also met with Israeli officials and urged them to allow greater market access for American goods in the West Bank. I emphasized the importance of private sector growth and job creation in the Palestinian Territories to the United States.

We know the unassailable connections between prosperity and stability and security. A secure and stable environment promotes business investment and development. Along with the creation of good jobs, investments in both facilities and infrastructure are critical elements in maintaining a stable society.

Many of you are doing business in the Palestinian Territories or looking for the right moment to become part of this market. I believe now is the right time to move forward with your projects. The Department of Commerce, as part of a government-wide effort, is here to assist you in increasing your trade and investment ties.

As an example, the Department of Commerce has a full-time trade promotion coordinator located in Ramallah. His job is to work closely with our commercial service staff in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to enhance U.S.-Palestinian linkages. This includes supporting the Palestinian-American Chamber of Commerce and using the digital data and video links we’ve developed between Ramallah and commercial service offices around the world to expand your access to global opportunities.

We have also developed a number of programs to help government and non-government organizations in the Palestinian Territories build their capacities and strengthen their capabilities. This includes programs on standards and information technology sector development in the Palestinian Territories.

As a lawyer and former General Counsel of the Department of Commerce, I’m particularly excited about the great work of our Commercial Law Development Program. We’ve made tremendous progress in assisting Palestinian lawyers as they modernize and harmonize commercial laws, and redraft the commercial, finance and competition laws of the Palestinian Territories.

These activities, combined with those of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency are part of a dynamic, practical foundation that is creating an environment in the Territories where businesses can succeed and the economy can grow.

I hope that over the course of today’s forum you have learned more and developed your networks. I hope you were able to advance projects you’ve been working on, particularly in the information technology, agribusiness, pharmaceutical and tourism sectors, which were the focus of today’s summit. It is the private sector that will create sustainable, long-term prosperity for Palestinians, just as it does in all market-driven economies.

In the United States government you have a committed partner both today and tomorrow, in this administration and beyond. I believe you also have a determined, capable partner in the Palestinian Authority. It continues to implement a reform agenda that includes security improvements and prudent fiscal policies.

I am also very impressed with the energy and enthusiasm of the Palestinian American Chamber of Commerce. Since I met with the Chamber’s Chairman Kareem Shehadeh and the Chamber’s board in East Jerusalem in May, it has become an accredited affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This is a significant milestone—congratulations on this important achievement.

American Chambers of Commerce are great organizations to work with around the globe. They are indispensable advocates for economic reform, trade liberalization, and job creation and proponents of open, transparent, accountable government. The Department of Commerce looks forward to building a close relationship with you and your leadership.

Today we’ve announced progress on some important initiatives, including the public-private youth development partnership with Cisco and Intel, as well as the development of a call center with TouchStar.

As you know, even with all that has been recently accomplished, tremendous challenges remain. I am confident that working together with a strong American Chamber and a committed Palestinian Authority, we can come closer to achieving the aspirations of the Palestinian people before the next Investment and Business Conference meets in London in December.

Thank you for all of your hard work, your partnership, and thank you for your participation in today’s forum.