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MEEF - Middle East Engineering Projects News & Releases

Don't fear business in Middle East

Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer

RANCHO CUCAMONGA -- Contrary to popular belief, doing business in parts of the Middle East and North Africa can be both profitable and safe.

That was the message Wednesday in an executive briefing by several ambassadors and U.S. Department of Commerce senior commercial officers.

In Algeria, for example, the government is launching a $110 billion program to renovate ports, airports, increase medical services and build roads, Robert S. Ford, U.S. ambassador to Algeria, told a predominately business group attending a briefing at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center.

The conference was sponsored by the California Inland Empire District Export Council and the County of San Bernardino Economic Development Agency.

Internet usage and related services are at a very early stage of development, offering another avenue for business partnership, Ford said.

All speakers agreed that security could be a big market for American firms.

Even countries such as Algeria and Tunisia, with long established ties to France, have turned to United States companies for equipment needed to improve security, ambassadors to those countries said.

Like most countries in the region, a United States firm would need to hook up with a local partner in Algeria to conduct business.

The point of the conference was to show that despite the headlines, there are business opportunities in this part of the globe, said Larry Sharp, who is chairman of the district export council for the two-county area as well as president and CEO of San Bernardino-based Arrowhead Credit Union.

Most North African and Middle Eastern countries respect and value the quality of American products, several ambassadors said.

But increasingly, Chinese and South Korean players are moving into these markets, making the scene more competitive, they said.

Roy Paulson, president and CEO of Temecula-based Paulson Manufacturing, said it is difficult - if not impossible - for a U.S. firm to compete on price.

The edge has to come from superior technology or training. Paulson's firm makes face shields, goggles and other items for security uses. He sells products to Algeria, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Rick Oritz, senior commercial officer for Morocco and Algeria, said that small businesses should consider getting their "feet wet" in the international business arena in countries outside this region.

Businesses interested in trading opportunities in North Africa the Middle East should contact the commerce department's Middle East and North African Business Information Center at (800) 872-8723.


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