Kuwaiti Amir and US President’s Oval Office meeting confirms their nations’ strong bonds
“We practice large-scale trade together, investment together, and also, very importantly, the fight against terrorism and Kuwait has been a great partner.” –US President Donald Trump
“I commend the unwavering commitment of the United States to the security and stability of our region as it had demonstrated in its leadership of the international coalition that liberated my country.”– Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad
“We look forward to taking a very strong group of American business leaders to Kuwait because we believe the commercial relationship is as important as the political and security relationship.” – US Chamber of Commerce’s Khush Choksy
(Translation of this article appears in Arabic Section)
N.Y- M. E. Times Int'l: Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad met with US President Donald Trump in Washington in early September. The meeting is the latest indication of the strong link between the two countries which dates back to the early 1960s. Throughout those decades, Kuwaiti leaders have often graced the White House. The Amir previously met with former George W. Bush and Barack Obama. This was Al-Ahmad’s third meeting with Mr Trump. The latest meeting was an opportunity for the leaders to discuss their shared desires to promote peace, security and stability in the Middle East and support the international effort to combat terrorism. Aside from the official diplomatic talks, Al-Ahmad and the Kuwaiti delegation met with a contingent of US business leaders. They also signed several governmental bilateral agreements between the countrie.
THE Amir of Kuwait Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad was invited to the White House’s Oval Office by President Donald Trump. Their discussions dealt with the deep-rooted ties between Kuwait and the US and ways to enhance co-operation in areas such as defense, education, security, trade and investment.
Both sides reviewed issues of common concern, with emphasis on the situations in the Arabian Gulf region and the Middle East.
Last year, during Mr Trump’s Middle East visit, he affirmed Kuwait’s “critical contributions to regional stability”, and thanked Kuwait for its “humanitarian leadership and its partnership in the fight to destroy ISIS”. Mr Trump affirmed that “cooperation between America and Kuwait has never been stronger, never, ever.”
The President went on to say: “Our relationship and our bilateral relationship is very powerful, very strong.” He described Al-Sabah as being a “very special friend of mine”.
Mr Trump highlighted the great co-operation between the US and Kuwait in various domains.
“We practice large-scale trade together, investment together, and also, very importantly, the fight against terrorism, and Kuwait has been a great partner.”
He affirmed Kuwait “has made tremendous investments in the United States, and they’re buying a lot of equipment, military equipment.”
In response, Al-Sabah said: “I commend the unwavering commitment of the United States to the security and stability of our region as it had demonstrated in its leadership of the international coalition that liberated my country.”
Both leaders talked about the important role of investment for the countries’ relationship.
September’s meeting is the latest since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kuwait and the US. The two countries have enjoyed a long history of friendship rooted in shared values, democratic traditions.
According to a State Department report, Kuwait is an “essential partner in the fight against Daesh”, and is also “an important partner in US counterterrorism efforts, including efforts to block financing of terrorist groups”.
In September 2017, the US and Kuwait co-chaired the second US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue in Washington, DC. It was a dialogue that advanced the strategic partnership in defense, security, trade, investment, education, consular, customs, and border protection issues.
The strategic dialogue is a process that commits the two countries to increased cooperation in the areas of greatest practical benefit for the governments and peoples.
A US official said Kuwait also “responded to President Trump’s speech in Riyadh last year with greater commitments to confront terrorism and violent extremism.”
Gerald Feierstein, Senior Fellow and Director at the Center for Gulf Affairs at the Middle East Institute said the US-Kuwait relationship had been strong for many years. He said this relationship could be seen in places such as Syria, where “Kuwait has been an important partner for us in the coalition in the fight violent extremism.”
Dr Kristin Smith Diwan, who is a specialist on Kuwait at the Arab Gulf States Institute, said the Kuwait-US relations “continue to be strong as evidenced by the ongoing Strategic Dialogue started in 2016.”
She said that the cooperation between the two countries “extends across the board from commerce to security, with bilateral trade, investment, and defense cooperation important for both countries.” She added Kuwait also “showed leadership in coordinating regional assistance for Iraq reconstruction.”
Furthermore, the Kaufman fellow at The Washington Institute who focuses on the political dynamics of Middle East countries David Pollock said Kuwait and the US “have been especially close partners” since the liberation of Kuwait in 1991; “a campaign in which I served as a diplomat on the front lines.”
Mr Pollock said “most recently, Kuwait continued to be a valuable asset for the US, both as a significant global energy exporter, and as a bulwark against terrorism, violent instability... in the region.”
In September of last year, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry in partnership with the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority hosted the first of its kind US-Kuwait Economic Forum. In this regard, Steve Lutes, Vice President of Middle East Affairs at the US Chamber, said the economic relationship between Kuwait and the US has a promising future.
He shed light on last year’s forum, noting “we have continued to build on that momentum through a series of activities to educate American businesses on commercial and investment opportunities in Kuwait.”
“While we strongly support the strong existing ties in the energy, finance and defense sectors, we are eager to see new partnerships and greater collaboration in the new economy sectors, like health, cyber, and e-commerce,” he said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah said the latest comes within the framework of the historical ties between the two countries.
Al-Jarallah stressed the keenness of the two countries in strengthening their strategic partnership.
He underlined the importance of the visit in light of the accelerating regional and international developments, especially those related to the situation in the Gulf region, the developments in the Middle East peace process, and the challenges within the framework of the international coalition against terrorism.
Moreover, the Amir’s visit to Washington provides an opportunity to review aspects of cooperation between the two countries, especially those related to the economic, investment, trade, security and defense fields, he said.
MEETING BUSINESS COMMUNITY
Along with his Oval Office meeting, Al-Sabah spoke with executives of big US companies in Washington. During his talk, he invited more US companies to participate in development and infrastructure projects in Kuwait.
He said Kuwait was keen to develop the strategic relationship with US companies to a permanent partnership. This partnership, he added, would provide more state-of-art technology to the oil sector.
The Amir noted Kuwait had adopted a series of economic legislations aimed at attracting foreign investment.
He said the Foreign Direct Promotion Law allowed foreign investors to have full ownership of their businesses in Kuwait.
His words were well received by the business people. The US Chamber of Commerce Middle East representative Khush Choksy affirmed businesses “truly trust doing business with Kuwait”, a point that was resonated throughout the meeting.
He said the CEOs were also impressed by the high level of engagement and forthrightness demonstrated during the meeting.
Mr Choksy also shed light on an upcoming strategic dialogue in November Both leaders talked about the important role of investment for the countries’ relationship, in Kuwait in November, saying “we look forward to taking a very strong group of American business leaders to Kuwait because we believe the commercial relationship is as important as the political and security relationship.”
His sentiments were shared by US Chamber of Commerce Middle East Affairs vice president Steve Lutes. “We know Kuwait is positioned very well not only as a market itself but as a hub for the greater region and as you look at opportunities like in Iraq and the reconstruction and rebuilding that is needed there, Kuwait is an important gateway to all of that,” Mr Lutes said.
Among the business leaders was BP chief executive Bob Dudley who noted Kuwait was BP’s second largest shareholder. Mr Dudley also said the meeting was also an opportunity to hear about other companies doing their activities in Kuwait. Other business leaders at the meeting included executives from the Carlyle Group, Fluor Corp, Raytheon Co, Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies and IronNet Cybersecurity.
Director General of Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) director general Dr Michael Jaber Al-Ahmad praised the meeting that brought together the Amir with business leaders. He added the meeting also revealed Kuwait’s strategy to decrease its reliance on oil sector by finding alternative sources for the national income. These could include information technology, communications and renewable energy.
“The Amir invited the US company heads to visit Kuwait in the near future in order to take a closer look at the economic environment to cope with the latest regulations and laws issued by the government in Kuwait,” Dr Jaber said.
The Amir’s official visit coincided with the signing of important agreement between the countries. Kuwait’s General Administration of Customs and the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) signed an agreement to ban trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials.
Administration of Customs director general Jamal Al-Jalawi said: “The signing came as a result of long discussions with the American side with a vital output in the fight against illicit trafficking in radioactive materials.” He added the agreement required the NNSA to present assistance to support Kuwait’s fight against radioactive material across borders.
The co-operation agreement will present US contributions on combating radioactive materials, not only in Kuwait International Airport, but also in seaports and land borders.
Kuwait’s Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) CEO Salem Muthib Al-Athainah and Amazon Web Services (AWS) senior executive Teresa Carlson inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on co-operation.
The MoU is in keeping with Kuwait Vision 2035 for digital transformation of the country.
“The document will help promote the development of cloud service governance that would enhance the performance of the government bodies,” Al-Athainah said.
“It falls in the framework of Kuwait’s quest to diversify the sources of the national income, build information-based economy and leverage the use of ICT in government services.
Under the deal, CITRA and AWS will co-operate in the areas of building the capacity of the national cadres and promoting the cloud service governance skills.
Ms Carlson said: “We are very excited about this MoU with Kuwait and we believe it really brings an amazing opportunity into Kuwait for digital innovation.
“We will focus on areas such as the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and we will be working with the telecommunications industry. One of our big goals is to work with the educational and job skills because we believe in the ability to upskill and re-skill the citizens and students are going to be really exciting.
“This is also going to be an amazing opportunity from a security and cyber security perspective to be able to work with the country on data classification to help them with their cloud policy.”