Thursday, December 16, 2004
Red state voters in Egypt!
Melting Icy Egypt-Israel Relations Through a Trade PactAs in West Virginia, Egyptians prefer their emotional, religious values over their economic self-interest. Wonder if the Republicans will start registering them.
The agreement stipulates that all Egyptian goods produced initially within seven specific "qualified industrial zones" will be exempt from American import tariffs as long as they contain at least 11.7 percent Israeli content. Given that much of the trade is expected to be in clothing, this would mean that the buttons or zippers or patterns would come from Israel, for example, while the actual manufacturing would depend on inexpensive Egyptian laborers.
The textile industry in Egypt employs a million people and accounts for more than one quarter of all industrial production, according to official figures. The United States takes half of Egypt's textile exports, or $470 million in 2003, which Mr. Rashid predicts could triple under the agreement. Jordan, the first to establish such zones, is expected to export $900 million to the United States this year, according to the American Embassy in Amman, up from virtually nothing five years ago.
Still, the pact was a tough public sell in Egypt, where bitterness and anger against the United States and Israel run deep. The professional unions in particular oppose any normalization with Israel, despite a 25-year-old peace treaty. Critics fret the agreement will not produce the anticipated job bonanza and will give Israel undue influence over some Egyptian exports.
The prevailing sentiment was that the agreement was yet another attempt by the United States to make Israel more palatable to the Arab world. Economic issues here often come secondary to the emotional desire to see some sort of overall settlement that will return occupied lands, particularly the holy mosque in Jerusalem, and find some solution for millions of Palestinian refugees stuck for generations in camps.
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