WASHINGTON – A delegation of Arab ambassadors attended the annual meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) last week in Traverse City, Michigan. The trip was organized by the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC), whose President & CEO, David Hamod, described the visit as a “unique opportunity for Arab ambassadors to meet with the nation’s governors.” The visit marked an historic milestone: This is the first time in the 99-year history of the NGA that the organization has invited an ambassadorial delegation to participate in the proceedings.
Saqr Ghobash, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, said, “I would like to thank the National Governors Association and this year’s Chair, Governor Janet Napolitano (Arizona), in particular for giving us an opportunity to meet so many governors and their staff members. There is no substitute for such face-to-face interaction, and we were very impressed by the high level of debate and discussion taking place at the NGA’s annual meeting. This has been a remarkable experience, and we were honored to have an opportunity to exchange ideas and promote bilateral relations.”
Noted Hunaina Al Mughairy, representing the Sultanate of Oman, “I feel that we have opened doors by establishing rapport with the Governors, and I hope that we will be able to continue the dialogue with them by keeping in touch. We look forward to inviting some of them to Oman in hopes that we might improve the image of the Arab world in the U.S. and vice-versa.”
Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaida’ie, received many questions from governors about the conflict in Iraq. He said, “I had the chance to express the gratitude of the Iraqi government and Iraqi people for the sacrifices made by the people of America. Through the governors, I extended our sincere sympathies to those families who have lost loved ones in Iraq. I highlighted to the governors how important it is to work together to win this war, stressing the importance of the outcome for the region, Iraq, and the United States.”
The ambassadors attended as official “observers” and participated in a number of sessions in that capacity. The ambassadors also met with governors who have a special interest in international relations and the global marketplace.
According to the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, U.S. merchandise sales to the Arab world are expected to grow to $45 billion this year. “The governors are keenly interested in promoting goods and services from their respective states,” noted the Chamber’s David Hamod. “In addition to encouraging people-to-people relationships, visits like these by the ambassadors have the potential to promote trade and investment opportunities in the United States and the Arab world.”
The NGA (www.nga.org), founded in 1908, is the collective bipartisan voice of the nation’s governors and one of Washington D.C.’s most respected public policy organizations. The annual meeting of the NGA brings governors together to share best practices and address policy issues. But the meeting also presents opportunities for governors to meet with government and private sector leaders from around the United States.
The visit, organized by the U.S.-Arab Chamber, was made possible by Chamber members, who provided financial support. The Platinum Sponsor was Lockheed Martin Corporation, and Gold Sponsors included the Coca-Cola Company, ExxonMobil, and Pepsico.
Echoing the views of the whole delegation, Ambassador Sumaida’ie of Iraq said, “I am very grateful to the NGA for this opportunity, and I compliment the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce for its excellent work in organizing this visit. I also want to thank the corporate sponsors, whose support helped to make this trip both enjoyable and productive.”