Thirteen members of the Egyptian parliament will visit Washington D.C. during the week of June 12 in an effort to build the country's relationship with the United States. With members of Congress and representatives from think tanks and the business community, the delegation will discuss modernizing reforms of the Egyptian government and progress made to date.
The MP delegation, led by Dr. Ahmed Said, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, includes key voices in foreign affairs and economic policy. Delegates are representative of the diverse makeup of Egypt’s parliament, including members of various political parties, several committees within the parliament, and seniority balance and gender diversity.
This visit is an opportunity for U.S. leaders in policy, government, and business to further the important dialogue started by President Trump and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on several key issues.
The members of parliament intend to discuss human rights issues for which the Egyptian government is often criticized, for what is a very delicate balance in fighting ongoing terror inspired by the underground Muslim Brotherhood network and carried out by ISIS through their affiliates based in Sinai, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (supporters of Jerusalem), and Wilayet Sayna (Sinai Province). These groups also support arms with Hamas in Gaza.
The MPs are also expected to address at length a law on non-governmental organizations that has steered a great deal of controversy. It was approved by parliament last November, but not signed into law by el-Sisi until last Monday. The law restricts NGOs to developmental and social activities, and introduces jail time for non-compliance. The Egyptian parliament defended the law as a “needed step in strengthening the national security of the country.”
The bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Egypt has always been robust. The U.S. continues to be one of Egypt’s key trading partners with nearly 5 billion dollars’ worth of goods and services exchange in 2016. American FDI into Egypt totaled 2.3 billion dollars, representing 32 percent of its total FDI on the African continent. More than 1,100 U.S. companies currently operate in Egypt.
AmCham Egypt is one of the most active overseas affiliates of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, connecting almost 2,000 senior executives representing 950 companies; Egyptian companies with business interests in the United States and multinational companies doing business in Egypt. AmCham serves its members by advocating on their behalf for a favorable business environment, promoting trade and investment, and fostering a socially responsible business environment. Business missions between the U.S. and Egypt have become tradition. These are organized in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber’s U.S. Egypt Business Council (USEBC) and the Egypt-U.S. Business Council (EUSBC) have been instrumental to shedding light on opportunities available in the Egyptian market. Last October, executives from nearly 50 major U.S. companies visited Egypt and this May, 35 members from Egypt visited Washington D.C. for the annual Doorknock Mission.
The visit overlaps with the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan. It also comes after the Islamic State’s December attack on Coptic Christians in Minya, which killed 29 and injured 25 (including many children), and two attacks on Christians during Palm Sunday ceremonies in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, which killed 45 Christians and wounded over 100.
The Muslim Brotherhood, an organization banned in Egypt (as well as in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), is not directly responsible for the latest attacks. But their ongoing rhetoric on social media does incite and inspire terrorist groups. Among other threats, lies, and deceptions, Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdul Mawgoud el-Dardery blamed Christians for the “crisis,” indicating that violence will end only when Christians align themselves with “Muslims,” by which he means radical Islamists.
The upcoming visit is timely and represents an opportunity to further constructive dialogue between U.S. and Egyptian leaders, strengthen cooperation, and address issues of concern.
Since taking office, President Trump has affirmed America’s unwavering commitment to the eradication of ISIS, and to jumpstarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He has also displayed a desire to continue America’s strong alliance with Egypt, hosting President el-Sisi at the White House and visiting the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh. That is fortunate, because the alliance will be crucial to realizing each country’s goals for the region.
Dr. Sasha Toperich is a senior fellow and director of the Mediterranean Basin initiative at The Center for Transatlantic Relations, SAIS, at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.