Afghan American Chamber of Commerce, 4th Annual Conference

 

Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Washington DC, 10/21/08

 

Afghanistan and the US: Presidential Politics and a Growing Relationship


Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished guests,

I would like to welcome our guests to Washington, especially those business leaders from Afghanistan, the UAE and Europe.

 

I would like to convey my gratitude to the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, especially Mr. Atiq Panjsheri and Mr. Ajmal Ghani, for continuing the momentum and hosting this important fourth annual U.S. – Afghan business matchmaking conference.

 

The embassy is at the service of the business community.  We are  proud of our close cooperation and working relations with the AACC over the last several years.  I admire their hard work and personal commitment.

 

Since we last met here in Washington we have many joint accomplishments to celebrate.  In April of this year, the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) was recognized as the world’s second best investment promotion agency at the World Investment Conference 2008 in Ghana.  Just this week, the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan (EPAA) won the “Best Trade Promotion Organization” at the World Conference of Trade Promotion Organizations, in the Netherlands.  These are outstanding accomplishments and indicators of further business potential in our country.

 

Despite the security challenges in Afghanistan, we have seen major investments in many sectors, especially mining and telecommunications in 2008.  In May, Afghanistan signed a contract with an international company to explore the Aynak copper mine in Logar Province.  We are expecting close to $4 billion investment and $400 million in annual revenues. In July, we opened the bidding process for five mines.

 

We are still actively seeking investment in a number of areas, including agri-business, oil and gas, iron ore, marble, coal, gold and other minerals.  I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities. 

There has also been over $1 billion investment in the telecommunications sector, and AWCC and Roshan announced they had each exceeded 2 million cell phone subscribers. Our newly established private banks have lent over $1 billion to businesses in Afghanistan.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Afghanistan and the United States are partners in both fighting terrorism and building a prosperous and pluralistic society in Afghanistan. We are working closely to ensure that Afghanistan regain its place in the regional trade and global economy.

 

We have had a number of great friends and close partners in this endeavor.  I would like to thank USAID, OPIC, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense and the Department of State for their commitment and the support of many of many officials of these institutions.

 

We are expanding our trade capacity-building programs and further opening the U.S. market to Afghan products. We are working closely with the U.S. government and Congress to establish Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Afghanistan which will offer Afghan goods duty-free access to U.S. markets.  The ROZ’s will provide a great opportunity to boost U.S. – Afghan trade, and help creat new jobs for bringing security and stability to the region.

 

In addition, programs such as “Economic Empowerment in Strategic Regions” or the “EESR” also seek to create jobs in the critical and strategic region of Afghanistan.

 

The Generalized System of Preferences or “GSP” has already offered duty-free access to U.S. markets for over 5,000 Afghan products.  We need your support to get the word out on such opportunities. 

The U.S. – Afghan Joint Statement on Commercial Cooperation that was signed in July 2007 will further enable our governments to attract investment in the three specific areas of the mining industry, with a particular emphasis on marble; as well as carpets; and dried fruits.

It is under this partnership that our embassy has organized two investment promotion road shows for Afghanistan in the U.S.

 

We have also participated in two major Afghan rug exhibitions at America’s Mart Atlanta and the World Market Center in Las Vegas, as well as the  MINExpo in Las Vegas, where Afghanistan was represented for the first time ever.


Ladies and Gentleman,

As we fast approach the US presidential election, I am confident that the relationship between our two countries, both in security and development, will grow stronger with the new administration.

We are very encouraged by the presidential candidates’ strong commitment to do more in Afghanistan through increasing military and non-military assistance.  Both candidates understand the strong links between economic prosperity and stability. 

 

In my meetings, sincere commitment is expressed by the candidates towards building our economy.   We welcome their strong stance in fighting terrorists and their plan to work with the Afghan people and government to improve the lives of our citizens. 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Afghanistan has always been characterized by a longstanding vibrant trading tradition.  The Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce; the newly re-established Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) in Kabul, who’s new CEO Mr. Kabir Haqjo and Chairman Sherkhan Farnood are here with us today; and the Afghan Business Council in Dubai under the leadership of Haji Obaidullah Saderkhail are all examples of the strength of trade and commerce tradition.  I wish them further success.

 

I want to thank the many business leaders of our ever growing Afghan global business community, including some of the distinguished guests in the audience today; such as my friend Mr. Abdul Rahman Alokozai for visiting us today.

 

I wish you all success. Once again, the embassy is at your service.
Thank you.