Washington — The United States is taking steps to spur business in Egypt to provide an economic underpinning for the country's fledgling democracy.
"Today, we are launching the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund, with an initial installment of $60 million in U.S. capital now, rising to $300 million in the coming years as we work with our Congress on funding this and other programs," Secretary of State John Kerry said in Cairo March 3.
The secretary added that the U.S. government is making an adjustment in its trade policy to increase Egyptian exports to the United States, saying the move will "stimulate growth, deepen our partnership and help Egypt add thousands of jobs."
"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," he said.
Kerry, who is traveling through Europe and the Middle East on his first foreign trip as secretary of state, said the U.S. government is funding a higher education initiative for Egypt, designed to help students, mainly women, to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and business.
The secretary said he was gratified that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi had assured him that the Egyptian government will take the steps necessary to qualify for a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
As a consequence of Morsi's assurance, Kerry said, the United States is releasing $190 million of a $450 million U.S. government fund for Egyptian budget support. He called the release of the $190 million "a good-faith effort to spur reform and help the Egyptian people at this difficult time."
Kerry said the IMF loan will provide an incentive for Egyptian entrepreneurs abroad to invest in their home country.
"To attract capital, to bring money back here that will invest, to give business the confidence to be able to move forward, there has to be a sense of security and there has to be a sense of economic and political viability," Kerry said.
Expanding on the theme of political viability, Kerry said Egypt's parliamentary elections in 2013 are a critical step in Egypt's democratic transition. "It is clear that more hard work and compromise will be required to restore unity, political stability and economic health to Egypt," he said.
In his discussions with Morsi, Kerry said, they talked of the need for reform in the police sector, protection of nongovernmental organizations and the importance of advancing the rights and freedoms of all Egyptians under the law - "men and women, and people of all faiths."
During his visit to Egypt, Kerry met with representatives from the government, the opposition, the business community and nongovernmental organizations. He said his purpose was to listen to all and not "urge anybody to take one particular action or another."
"What we support is democracy and the people and the nation of Egypt," he said. "The best way to ensure human rights and strong political checks and balances in any democracy in Egypt, just like in the United States, is through the broadest possible political and economic participation."