US pledges to help Egyptian economy battered by anti-terror war
The United States on Friday, November 2 pledged to help Egypt mend its battered economy that has been hard hit by the September 11 attacks and the ensuing US-led war against terrorism. Among the methods of assistance possible is a US-Egypt free trade agreement, the State Department said, without elaborating on details.
"The United States recognizes the importance of the economic impact on Egypt of the war against terrorism, a struggle in which the government of Egypt is a strategic partner to the US," spokesman Richard Boucher said.
Washington "will look actively for ways to help Egypt address the challenge presented by recent worldwide economic disruptions stemming from terrorism," he said in a statement released after a week of talks between US officials and Egypt's Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade, Yousef Boutros-Ghali.
"The United States supports Egypt's efforts to ensure continued private sector growth and job creation," Boucher said. Among the officials Boutros-Ghali met with were national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, he said.
Both sides "agreed that it is in the interest of both countries that US-Egypt economic ties remain strong," Boucher said. "In this regard, US Trade Representative Zoellick expressed interest in the possibility of initiating discussions on the elements of a potential US-Egypt Free Trade Agreement," he said.
On Thursday, the Egyptian government warned of an economic slowdown due to a drop in tourism and shipping revenues since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and forecast a $2.4 billion drop in foreign currency holdings.
Tourism revenues were projected to reach only $3.2 billion in 2001, down from a record $4.3 billion last year, and transport revenues are expected to drop by $433 million in the air and maritime sectors, with the Suez Canal alone losing $184 million, it said.
Egypt has already been mired in an economic recession for more than two years. In August, the government devalued the Egyptian pound against the dollar for the second time in six months. — (AFP, Washington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)