Impressions from a Historic U.S. Trade Mission to the Gulf

Impressions from a Historic U.S. Trade Mission to the Gulf

March 25, 2014 at 03:03pm

By Tim Richards, Senior Executive for Government Affairs and Policy; GE Middle East, North Africa and Turkey

In mid-March, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker led a 21-company Infrastructure Business Development Mission to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It was the first time in 15 years that a U.S. Commerce Secretary had taken a trade delegation to the region, reflecting the growing commercial significance of U.S.-Gulf trade and investment.

I had the opportunity to participate in this mission, representing GE along with Dalya Al Muthanna. GE was honored to be one of the 21 U.S. companies selected to accompany the Secretary on this historic visit.

The week of back-to-back events included presentations by government officials and government-related enterprises on their priority interests, briefings on political and commercial issues, “speed dating” sessions with potential customers and business partners, and networking at receptions, luncheons and dinners.

The UAE, Saudi and Qatari participants included board chairmen and CEOs from organizations such as Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Electricity Company, the Dubai 2020 World Expo organization and Qatar’s Public Works Authority (Ashghal), and several government ministers. Other senior-level meetings were held with entities such as the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), Mubadala Healthcare, Qatar’s Nebras Power Company and the organizing committee for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Secretary Pritzker joined us in mostdelegation meetings and then held parallel one-on-one sessions with senior government officials.

There were countless benefits for participating companies, including insights into the region’s political and commercial environment, strong business leads, one-of-a-kind customer and funding relationship building, and supportive advocacy on issues such as standards. has All of these elements were given particular impact by the presence and engagement of a senior government official.

From a personal point of view, the mission provided an unparalleled opportunity to sharpen my perspective on the three countries we visited, establish important new connections and advance GE business.

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