The D.C. Chamber of Commerce has arranged with the Egyptian government to promote joint ventures between business people from both countries, according to an Egyptian official.
Washington is the only American city engaged in a special trade mission to Egypt, which will offer for the first time organized opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in the District to engage in import and export business with Egypt, boycotted by Arab nations opposed to the Israeli peace treaty.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat has welcomed American business and a number of large corporations have located there. But Edward van Kloberg, chamber senior vice president, and Egyptian Embassy official Ezzeddin Mostafa said yesterday the District plan is the first arrangement between an American city and the Egyptians to promote their businesses.
The agreement grew out of a luncheon meeting about six weeks ago of Sadat, President Carter and several prominent businessmen from around the country, Mostafa said. After that, van Kloberg approached the Egyptian Embassy and suggested the trade mission to Egypt, in which seven to 10 small and medium-sized businesses would be represented in talks with Egyptian business people and government officials in the fall.
The arrangement also would open trade lines for Washington businesses in "other places in the Middle East," Mostafa said.
Egypt is particularly interested in businesses involved in communications, building industries and other technical fields, Mostafa said. "The market is ready for almost anything you can think of."
Small-business owners have said consistently that they are precluded from benefitting from international trade because it all goes to large, multinational corporations. That sentiment was expressed this winter during congressional hearings on Carter's proposed multilateral trade pact, which is supposed to open up $20billion in foreign business for small firms.
The Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with Mayor Marion Barry, arranged for the private Egyptian venture, Van kloberg said. No special trade pact was involved, Mostafa said, "Just an understanding."
The companies selected will be determined by what resources Egypt needs, Van Kloberg said. "We hope to enlarge to the Persian Gulf, Bulgaria and Africa."
Economically, since the signing of the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty, Egypt is expected to lose more than $1 billion a year it would have received from the other Arabs as a "confrontation state" in the fight against Israel.
The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries and other Arab financial organizations have suspended Egypt, which could halt some development project financed by the organizations. Saudi Arabia, Egypt's largest benefactor, announced last month that it was breaking diplomatic relations with Egypt in line with Arab decisions to oppose the treaty. The Saudis have said nothing about ending economic assistance, but Sadat has expressed doubt that he will receive any more Saudi dollars.
At the Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon yesterday, Mayor Barry , introduced by a group of third grade students from the Plummer Elementary School, said that the chamber's activities and newly diversified membership "dispels the notion that the Chamber of Commerce is a place where black and small businesses go."
Barry also criticized the federal government for owning or controlling more than 55 percent of the city's property, but only paying about 18 percent of the city's taxes. "We're carrying the federal government," Barry said. "They're not carrying us."