Chamber of Commerce Exec Remains Confident About Middle East ProspectsFebruary 20, 2015
Douglas Barry is an International Trade Specialist for ITA in the Office of Communications and Digital Initiatives, Global Markets.
David Hamod, President & CEO of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC, remains optimistic that the Arab world will solve its problems and that U.S. companies have an important role to play in the region. Last year, Hamod brought that message to the DISCOVER GLOBAL MARKETS: Africa, the Middle East, & India conference. This month, U.S. Commercial Service Officers based in Saudi Arabia and the UAE reiterated that importance when they met with hundreds of U.S. businesspeople at DISCOVER GLOBAL MARKETS: Sustainable Solutions in Santa Clara, California.
Despite ongoing conflict and instability in the region, Hamod said that a major success has been the cooperation councils in the Arabian Gulf. “They’ve been successful in attracting a lot of investment to the region,” he said. “They have some marquis events coming like the Expo 2020 in Dubai, [and] the World Cup 2022 in Doha that will further enlarge the attractiveness to U.S. companies.”
Hamod advises looking at the data carefully to see where help is needed and opportunities abound, noting that U.S. exports to the area are doubling every four years. “Our longer term forecast suggests by the year 2018, U.S. companies will be exporting almost $250 billion worth of goods and services to the region,” he noted. Additionally, there’s a perception that the Arab world has a favorable view of the United States, especially when it involves where to educate their children, get good health care, and take vacations. Hamod believes that people in the region like to do business with Americans.
“They like the fact that Americans are straight forward, and we have something called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that helps to cut down on the…under-the-table type of business which serves nobody.”
Hamod said he’s often asked by U.S. companies if the opportunities are only in oil and gas. The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. “For every country in the region, there is a keen effort right now to diversify away from oil and gas.”
“Not every country had it to begin with,” he said. “This area is diversifying, becoming more creative, looking at the natural assets that it has. It is in these efforts to diversify that many different kinds of U.S. suppliers of goods and services will find opportunity.”
One of the best things going for the region, he explained, is its location, with most of the world’s population within an eight-hour flight. “When you look at how the local airlines are now serving the U.S. market, I think it’s going to revolutionize the relationships that we’ve historically had with this part of the world. And you put the new railway lines that are being developed on top of that—there’s going to be a whole new world for U.S. business.”
Hamod advises U.S. exporters to attend future DGMs, noting that it can cost $25,000 to send two people to an area without knowing whether there is a market for your product. It’s better to get expert advice in the United States before you go abroad. For more information, call the nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center to get the ball rolling.