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Monday, May 23, 2016

An Economic Dialogue for a Better Future

By U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem Donald Blome
This week, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and
Business Affairs Charles Rivkin led a U.S. government delegation to Ramallah for the first U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue in over a decade. This event is a historic step towards expanding and strengthening the U.S.-Palestinian economic relationship. It also underscores our commitment to fostering a robust, sustainable, and export-oriented Palestinian economy, which will be the backbone of a future Palestinian state. Growing the Palestinian economy and providing more opportunities to young Palestinians is not a goal that we can put off to a later point in time. It is a necessity that we must address in lock-step with our overarching political goal: a negotiated two-state solution, with a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. 
The U.S. government, through our aid programs and our advocacy, is already dedicating resources to support private sector growth in the Palestinian economy. Through initiatives like our Compete program, we are strengthening the competitiveness and export potential of Palestinian agribusiness, stone and marble, textiles, and technology firms.  The U.S.-funded Loan Guarantee Facility was just re-launched with $100 million in additional capital. We provide technical and marketing training to entrepreneurs, and we connect them to U.S. markets and investors. We will also continue to fund infrastructure projects, such as new roads and vehicle crossings that make it easier to do business.
We recognize the Palestinian private sector must grow in order to fuel the economy of the future. The United States, along with the Quartet and other members of the international community, are working to address restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and their goods in the West Bank and Gaza. We see many potential benefits of greater Palestinian-led development  in the areas of housing, water, energy, communications, agriculture, and natural resources. A modern economy requires modern telecommunications, and so we continue to work with the Israelis and the Palestinians to allow Palestinian mobile networks to provide an expanding range of cellular services throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
We also recognize the need for regulatory reform, particularly in the areas of asset registry, corporate law, tax code enforcement, and intellectual property rights protections. Changes such as these will make the Palestinian market more attractive to international investors. The Palestinian Authority has already taken steps in the right direction. I applaud Prime Minister Hamdallah and his economic team for moving forward on a new National Policy Agenda for the next six years, and I hope that one of the primary goals in that plan will be to create a business and regulatory environment more conducive to private sector growth.
But we know we must do more together to improve the situation. Today experts from across the U.S. and Palestinian Authority will come together to chart a way forward toward sustainable, broad-based economic growth to provide jobs and hope to young people and secure livelihoods to Palestinian families.  The success of the Palestinian economy is also a powerful antidote to extremism. There are only a few dozen U.S. economic dialogues with governments around the world; we hope this renewed dialogue will demonstrate the premium the U.S. government places on Palestinian economic prosperity and the dignity of the Palestinian people.  We look forward to a series of U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogues in the years ahead. We plan to host the Palestinian delegation in Washington for the next round of the U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue in 2017 and are deeply committed to solidifying the economic ties that bind us.

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