Nicole Lamb-Hale is Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services.
Saturday, Feb. 20th
After a string of successful meetings in Algeria, I traveled with the companies to Libya, where I was again humbled and inspired by the very warm welcome I received. This is the first trade mission to Libya since our countries resumed diplomatic relations, and you can sense its historic nature everywhere we go. All around us, we sense the opportunities for U.S. companies to extend their products and services here. This emerging market has huge potential and the government has tremendous liquid capital to fund and support programs and partnerships with U.S. businesses. The Libyan Economic Development Board offered us an overview of the commercial climate and of their interest in infrastructure programs focusing on transportation, communications, housing, utilities, health-care, education and energy/power services. In Libya, foreign direct investment can be wholly foreign-owned or part of a shared partnership. However, it is clear the government will support joint partnerships as well as businesses that want to create long-term investments in the country. I am excited to dig into the details in the days ahead…
Sunday, Feb. 21st
We scheduled over 150 meetings between our companies and various public and private sector partners in the days ahead. Kudos to the excellent local Commercial Service staff who organized so busy, useful and, ultimately, productive schedule for our trade mission participants! Most of our meetings are “small group forums,” during which companies from a particular sector meet with local high-level decision makers and government officials who oversee the local development of that sector. For example, we brought in our companies that build hospitals and create high-tech health-care technologies to meet with the Minister of Health and his team who are modernizing the Libyan health-care industry. We brought in our military and defense contractors to meet with the Minister of Public Security (sort of a mix of our Interior and Homeland Security Departments) to discuss procurement processes and what our companies could offer in terms of products and training. Our construction companies met with the Ministry of Housing and Utility Projects…I think you get the idea here, and it is inspiring to see the happy faces on our companies after we facilitate these connections!
Monday, Feb. 22nd
This is my last full day on this trade mission. While I am excited to return to the United States, I will be missing my new Algerian and Libyan friends, as well as the wonderful people I have met from the U.S. private sector. I look forward to follow the progress of the new partnerships and new investments we helped jumpstart in North Africa. While formal meetings can generate many successes, the less formal dinners and receptions at times make for better networking opportunities. Let me just share one such instance. At a dinner sponsored by the Libyan Businessmen’s Council, I sat next to the Under Secretary for Economy and Trade, the charming Mr. Sarkez, and we were joined by the CEO of Libyan Airlines. While discussing Boeing, one of our companies on this mission, my Libyan colleagues became so eager to learn more that they secured new meetings for Boeing with the Minister of Transportation for the following day. The company’s representatives extended their stay! Other companies had the same experience. These fantastic connections that came out of this historic trade mission make me want to stay and do more to promote the development of trade and business…but tomorrow it is back to the USA for me!