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Photo from the event.
Kuwait-US trade volumes reach $15.2 bln in 2013 Tueller praises ABCK’s role in raising economic ties to ‘unprecedented heights’

KUWAIT CITY, March 5: Kuwait is the 13th fastest growing source of foreign direct investment for the US, and is the fifth largest US export market in the Arab World, says the outgoing US Ambassador to Kuwait, Matthew Tueller. He was talking at the 29th Anniversary Gala of the American Business Council-Kuwait (ABCK) held at Radisson Blu Tuesday. The ambassador thanked ABCK for the key role it has played in raising US — Kuwait economic relations “to unprecedented heights.”  The Commercial relations between the two countries have expanded at an appreciable pace, with trade volumes growing by more than 167 percent from $5.7 billion in 2009 to $15.2 billion in 2013. Over the same period, US exports have grown by 33%, he added. This development has translated into more than 13,000 American jobs, and represents better healthcare, infrastructure, and higher education opportunities for Kuwaitis. 
 
Giving a quick rundown of some of the key achievements of his embassy in the last one year, Tueller noted the agenda to deepen “our commercial engagement in education, infrastructure development and health” was the strategy to directly support President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which seeks to double US exports by 2015.  Further, Tueller pointed out the 30-member Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection Trade Delegation led by Commerce Under Secretary of Commerce Francisco Sanchez to Kuwait; the five-day Discover America Festival which showcased over 100 American entities in education, health, consumer products and tourism sectors; eight US college and university fairs with representatives from more 120 American education institutions; and the first-ever Kuwaiti investor delegation to President Obama’s Select USA Investment Summit, the largest GCC delegation. 
 
Shedding light on future challenges, the ambassador underlined Kuwait’s underperformance in attracting foreign direct investment. “These relatively low levels of investment limit efforts to diversify the economy away from the petroleum sector.  In the World Bank’s 2014 Doing Business Report, Kuwait ranked 104 out of 189 countries in terms of ease of doing business; this was last among the Gulf nations and a drop in three places from last year. With some modest economic reforms, Kuwait can play a leading role in attracting more FDI. We encourage ABCK members to advocate for those changes.”
Tueller called attention to the growing importance of Intellectual Property Rights in Kuwait. “IPR is important not only to software and other creative industries, but also to the full range of medical, business services, manufacturing, and other sectors that need innovation to maintain their global competitive edge. IPR protection is of utmost significance for both American businesses and the future development of Kuwait’s domestic industries. “We look forward to scaling up programs that help entrepreneurs and start-ups in Kuwait and connect successful American business leaders with aspiring Kuwaiti entrepreneurs.”
 
Franchises 
Tueller said that as a result of the arrival of more flagship American brands into Kuwait during his tenure, “The growing Kuwaiti middle class has greater access to American products. US franchises such as Katsuya, Sprinkles, and Garretts Popcorn opened stores in Kuwait last year, and other iconic American brands, such as Ralph Lauren and Tiffanysand Company have significantly stepped up their presence here.”  We are on track to meet the target President Obama set out of doubling US exports by 2015, the ambassador added. Talking about ABCK, Tueller praised the workshops staged by the council on sensitive issues such as Commercial Registration for Kuwaiti SMEs, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  
 
Tueller concluded with some kind words about his successor, ambassador-designate Douglas Alan Silliman, “whose goals of US policy in Kuwait include sustaining and deepening our security partnership, protecting access to energy resources, and strengthening US-Kuwaiti commercial ties, as the Government of Kuwait is directing a sizeable portion of its budget into modernizing the country’s infrastructure and improving the health and education sectors, opportunities for which US companies can expect to be exceptionally competitive.” The gala event, which was also a farewell to the ambassador, saw Gregg Stevens, Chairman of ABCK, giving the welcome address. A painting was gifted to the Ambassador as a farewell gift by Kuwaiti artist, Abdullah Al Zaid. ABCK also honored members of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industries with certificates of appreciation at the event. 

 

 By Valiya S. Sajjad

Arab Times Staff

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