Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Afghanistan Business Dialogue

Event Title: Afghanistan Business Dialogue
Sponsor: Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce
Location: The Embassy of Afghanistan
Date: March 15th, 2007
Time: 3:00 am- 5:00 pm
Approximate Number of Attendees: 40
Intern Attending: Evan Davies

Featured Speakers: George Rubin, Claudio Lilienfeld, Amb Tayeb Jawad, Chris Moore, Atiq Panjshiri, Assad Mattin

The topic of this quarterly meeting focused on the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ) proposal. The ROZ concept was introduced by President George W. Bush as an important part of a larger economic development program by the US government for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Following US Congressional approval, ROZs would offer duty-free trade for certain products which would create new employment opportunities. The entire territory of Afghanistan and certain portions of the border regions of Pakistan are eligible for ROZ designation. The major qualification for ROZ designation necessitates that the countries do not support any terrorist activities in their region.

Afghanistan’s economy was the fifth poorest in the world only six years ago, but in 2007 it is expected to export close to $10 billion. Promoting technology, the ROZ program is moving the economy forward. ROZ is also producing stable infrastructures and reconstruction programs that create jobs for the country. Support for ROZ should continue because it has decreased insurgency and increased the Afghan economy. Afghan Ambassador, Said T. Jawad, expressed the Government of Afghanistan's support for ROZs in his remarks: “While ROZs are an important part of the economic development process in Afghanistan, they will also make a significant contribution towards regional cooperation and prosperity, as well as to global security."

The parting message about enterprise in Afghanistan was that businesses must be supported and feel secure in the country. Support should come from the U.S. by way of strengthening the ROZ program. Although southern Afghanistan suffers from corruption and rumors of opium cultivation, panelists urged fellow businessmen to place their trust and business in Afghanistan.

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