Thank you, Khush, for that kind introduction — and for the opportunity to be with you and your members for the launch of the new U.S.-Kuwait Business Council. It’s also my pleasure to be here with Ambassador Al Sabah.
The two of us met shortly after I started my tenure as the Commerce Secretary, and we have worked together many times since. I had the honor of attending the U.S. - Kuwait Economic Forum organized by the Chamber in 2017. And together we celebrated the National Day of Kuwait earlier this year, as well as in 2018.
My second official meeting after being confirmed as Secretary of Commerce was with His Excellency Khaled Al-Roudan, Kuwait’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, who was accompanied, as usual, by Ambassador Al Sabah. At the U.S.-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue held earlier this year, the Commerce Department and the Kuwait National Fund for SME Development signed an MOU to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and development of SMEs in both of our countries.
Today, we celebrate the fruits of these collective efforts to fortify our commercial bonds. This new council will provide our governments with the recommendations we need to improve our economic relationship. The Council will help American and Kuwaiti companies — and, importantly, their workers — to flourish in each other’s market.
Kuwait’s ambitious “New Kuwait 2035” program should provide opportunities in Kuwait for American companies in infrastructure, construction, healthcare, environmental technologies, finance, and public administration. The new plan proposes major business reforms; and includes infrastructure projects that total $124 billion. Kuwait will create five new cities; invest in roads and rail; and build an airport, a large refinery, and a major petrochemical complex for olefins and aromatics. I hope American companies will attend the “New Kuwait Summit” scheduled in Kuwait on December 10th through 11th, to learn about these opportunities.
Often, the success of American firms in foreign markets is dependent upon the success of our government-to-government interactions. Individual companies have difficulty eliminating adverse foreign market barriers on their own. Kuwait ranks 97th on the 2019 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Ranking. That is where the U.S. government plays an important role for both American companies and the Kuwaiti government.
Our Foreign Commercial Service officers located in the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City engage daily with U.S. company executives, and officials from the Kuwait government. They help American firms form joint ventures with reputable Kuwaiti companies; and they specialize in opening local markets. The Commerce Department also has a regional intellectual property attaché office in Kuwait City.
These professionals help U.S. and Kuwaiti companies protect their patents and designs, their investments, and their competitive advantage. With their help, the Kuwait government passed a new copyright law this past summer. And, just recently, Kuwait’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry conducted a series of high-profile raids against stores selling counterfeit goods.
The Commerce Department’s Commercial Law Development Program is also active in Kuwait. Our CLDP officers are currently working with Kuwaiti government officials on crafting a new procurement law that improves competition and transparency. Kuwait is a key target market for foreign direct investment into the United States. At this year’s SelectUSA Summit in June, we were happy to welcome 16 Kuwaiti investors, the largest delegation ever from there. Companies from Kuwait have invested more than $1.5 billion in the United States, supporting 1,500 American jobs.
The most recent big investment was made by Kuwait’s Petrochemical Industries Company: A $1 billion joint venture with Dow Chemical, for a new facility that opened this past September 9th just south of Galveston, Texas. Kuwait is also the destination for $3 billion worth of U.S. exports. We want to see that amount grow. Our trade discussions with Kuwait depend on you providing us with information on the barriers to your success.
The U.S.-Kuwait Business Council will be a key source of advice about how we can promote opportunities for American companies in Kuwait. We look forward to working with you to improve the fortunes and lives of the citizens of both our countries. The United States and Kuwait have a long, rich heritage together, and we want to remain great partners for many years to come.
Thank you, again, to the U.S. Chamber for hosting the launch of the new U.S.-Kuwait Business Council. And to you, Ambassador Al Sabah, for so ably representing your government’s dedication to our trusted partnership.