Over the past couple of days in Egypt, I have listened to a broad cross-section of political leaders, business leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations. In all of these conversations, we have discussed the many real and daunting challenges Egypt faces. The people I met shared their deep concern about the political course of their country, the need to strengthen human rights protections, justice and the rule of law, and their fundamental anxiety about the economic future of Egypt.
I also had the opportunity to talk through these same issues with President Morsy in a very candid and constructive manner. It is clear that more hard work and compromise will be required to restore unity, political stability and economic health to Egypt. The upcoming parliamentary elections are a particularly critical step in Egypt’s democratic transition.
We spoke in depth about the need to ensure they are free, fair and transparent. We also discussed the need for reform in the police sector, protection for non-governmental organizations, and the importance of advancing the rights and freedoms of all Egyptians under the law – men and women, and people of all faiths.
In all my meetings, I conveyed a simple but serious message: The brave Egyptians who stood vigil in Tahrir Square did not risk their lives to see that opportunity for a brighter future squandered. The Egyptian people must come together to address their economic challenge. I encouraged President Morsy to implement the homegrown reforms that will help his country secure an IMF agreement, put Egypt on the path to establishing a firm economic foundation and allow it to chart its own course. He agreed and said that he plans to move quickly to do so.
In May 2011, President Obama pledged $1 billion in U.S. support for Egypt’s democratic revolution. This commitment reflected our profound support for and interest in Egypt’s future as a democracy driven by strong businesses, vibrant non-governmental organizations, full political participation and universal freedoms. The path to that future has clearly been difficult and much work remains.
The United States is committed to providing direct support to key engines of democratic change in Egypt, including Egypt’s entrepreneurs and its young people. So today we are launching the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund, with an initial installment of $60 million in U.S. government capital now, rising to $300 million in the coming years as we work with our Congress on funding this and other programs.
We are also modifying our Qualifying Industrial Zones program in order to help increase Egypt’s exports to the United States. By allowing exports from additional Egyptian companies in these zones to come into the United States duty-free, we will stimulate growth, deepen our partnership, and help Egypt add thousands of jobs.
We will make investments as well in Egypt’s young people by funding a higher education initiative to help students, especially women, earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and business.
And in light of Egypt’s extreme needs and President Morsy’s assurance that he plans to complete the IMF process, today I advised him the United States will now provide the first $190 million of our pledged $450 million in budget support funds in a good-faith effort to spur reform and help the Egyptian people at this difficult time.
The United States can and wants to do more. Reaching an agreement with the IMF will require further effort on the part of the Egyptian government and broad support for reform by all Egyptians. When Egypt takes the difficult steps to strengthen its economy and build political unity and justice, we will work with our Congress at home on additional support. These steps will also unlock much-needed private-sector investment and broader financial assistance.
The American people want to see the political and economic success of our long-time partners and friends in Egypt. We look forward to continuing to work closely with all Egyptians as they define their own path to economic strength, a working democracy, and regional peace and security.