In an effort to promote collaboration between small and medium-sized businesses in the United States with businesses overseas, the State Department has reached out to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, according to an online briefing for foreign reporters last week.
Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats says he has spoken with members of the Muslim Brotherhood about “promoting smaller enterprises,” according to CNS’ Terence P. Jeffrey, and that he will be speaking with other Middle East and North African leaders on the same topic this week.
“America's a big economy with a number of big companies. We also have a lot of small and medium-sized companies. And we know in many parts of the world, there is an effort to support small and medium-sized enterprise,” Hormats said.
Just one example: I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Middle East and North Africa in support of the kind of reforms that are now going on in that region.
And one of the things that I have picked up by people throughout the region is their emphasis on support for small and medium-sized enterprises. American companies would like to buy from and collaborate with small and medium-sized enterprises in North Africa, the Middle East. I’ve had conversations in Egypt, with business people members of the Muslim Brotherhood; the same is true in Tunisia, and other parts of the world.
So this is not an ideological issue. This is not a political issue.
This is a practical issue of collaboration between the United States and companies around the world and governments around the world, all of whom want to create jobs, want to work together, and to improve the living standards of their citizens. American business is very supportive of this.
The State Department is very supportive of American business and of cooperation between American business and businesses in other countries who want to create jobs, who want to innovate, and want to strengthen their global ties in a mutually constructive way.
A reporter from Al Sharq al-Awsat (an Arabic-language newspaper) asked Hormats: “Post the Arab Spring, changing nations are struggling. What is the support that is taking place there?”
The Undersecretary of State responded by saying the Obama administration is interested in working with the Arab Spring countries "by helping them to deal with opportunities for strengthening small and medium sized enterprises," CNS reports.
"The United States is strongly committed to supporting the economic and the political reforms that are going on in the region. Each country is in a somewhat different position. They're not all the same. They don't have the same approaches to change," Hormats responded.
But they do have many things in common: the emphasis on dignity, the emphasis on job creation, the emphasis on strengthening opportunity for their people to participate in the political process and participate to a far greater degree in the economic benefits of growth and giving them more opportunities.
Secretary Clinton regards this as a very high priority. And of course, President Obama regards this as very important. So we intend to support countries of the region by helping them deal with their financial situations, by helping them to deal with opportunities for strengthening small and medium sized enterprises.
I mentioned representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood with whom I've had an opportunity to meet, have emphasized that point very substantially.
This is not the first time Hormats has reached out to the Muslim Brotherhood: you may recall back in January when the Undersecretary and the Deputy Secretary of State William Burns were part of a U.S. delegation that met with Brotherhood leaders.
In that first meeting, Hormats described Brotherhood leaders as being "very pragmatic."
“They understand; they're the majority party now in the parliament. They are going to be the primary political party in Egypt. They need to deliver results,” Hormats said, according to Reuters.
"And their focus primarily is on small- and medium-enterprise" as generators of job creation, he added.
The story has been updated.