Deepening the US-Israel relationship through business

Technology is transforming every part of our economy today. Innovation ranging from transportation and manufacturing to health care and agriculture are fundamentally changing how we live and work.

Even though the United States is one of the most innovative countries in the world, innovation doesn’t reside in one state or one country so developing partnerships outside our border is critical. It is therefore notable that this week, a top group of government leaders from the United States and Israel met in Washington, D.C. for the annual U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Development Group’s meeting. This meeting, chaired by Israel’s Minister of Finance, U.S. Secretary of Treasury, and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, convenes economic policymakers from both countries together to map out new areas for bilateral cooperation and joint innovation.

While our bilateral relationship is often seen through the prism of security and defense cooperation, this annual meeting underscores the growing importance of our mutually beneficial economic partnership with Israel. Hundreds of U.S. companies —from Apple to Citibank to Ford Motor Company–have research and development (R&D) centers in Israel, employing tens of thousands of Israeli researchers and producing an amazing array of innovative solutions. In addition, Israel is responsible for nearly 50 percent of the Middle East’s investment into the U.S. despite accounting for just two percent of the region’s population.

America’s trade, investment, and innovation partnership with Israel is substantial, but in sectors such as energy, agriculture, health, cybersecurity, water, and beyond, our countries have only scratched the surface. To fully realize the potential, we need to expand the American business community’s exposure and access to Israel as well as empower new supporters of the U.S.-Israel economic relationship.

That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched “Business Israel” in 2017 – a new national program that seeks to deepen and expand across America’s business relationship with Israel in all 50 states.

Over the past two years, CEOs from state and local chambers of commerce have traveled to Israel to learn about the opportunities, network, and forge partnerships. These state and local chambers are important champions for America’s relationship with Israel in communities throughout the United States, and they serve as hubs for businesses as well as vital links to civic leaders, government officials, community organizations, and the general public.

For every state and locality, Israel invariably has something unique to offer.

For example, as a pioneer in drip irrigation and desalination, Israel has developed many innovative solutions that could help desert states across the Southwest improve water management. That’s why we have worked with chambers of commerce in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah to host major conferences with the government of Israel, with the purpose of sharing best practices and technology from Israel.

There is also a huge potential for cooperation that is now being realized in the energy sector as well. Israel’s development of its offshore natural gas resources is generating deep partnerships between companies and universities across the U.S. Gulf Coast, including Texas and Louisiana, with Israeli counterparts. This is contributing to Middle East regional cooperation in ways we haven’t seen in a generation. In fact, Energy Secretary Rick Perry was in Israel and Egypt last month to promote U.S. engagement in this important area.

The Big Three automakers from Michigan are all teaming up with Israeli tech firms to improve their vehicles. Defense companies in Alabama and Mississippi are working hand-in-hand with the Israeli Defense Forces on new life-saving technologies.

And the list goes on.

As the “U.S.-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act” makes clear, our two nations’ economic relationship has huge unrealized potential. The work Congress has done to advance new federal programs that will catalyze economic activity is critical. In tandem, we need to continue to cultivate and grow new business partners all across America.

There are thousands of state, metropolitan, and local chambers of commerce all across the country. We encourage businesses throughout the U.S. who currently have partnerships with Israel to build relationships with these chambers, share lessons learned, and help scale and deepen our economic relationship.

For business leaders that don’t currently have these partnerships but may be interested, there are many opportunities available and we encourage you to reach out to your local and state chambers find out how to get involved and build these beneficial partnerships.

The U.S.-Israel economic relationship has already produced tremendous innovation and supports tens of thousands of jobs. By growing this already strong relationship, we can promote further advancements and create even more jobs. Chambers are natural allies to help expand this important relationship and catalyze those efforts.

The combination of the U.S. government’s action with private sector engagement will ensure a strong and growing partnership between our two innovative economies and transform the products and companies building the future.

Myron Brilliant is the executive vice president and head of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He leads the largest international affairs team of any U.S. business association, representing the Chamber and its members before the U.S. government, foreign governments, and international business organizations.

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