DETROIT (Apr. 5)
American businessmen were warned here that if Congress adopted legislation aimed at combating the Arab boycott it would mean the loss of millions of dollars in business for the United States. The warning came from eight Arabs who addressed some 200 Arab-Americans and local businessmen at a meeting last week sponsored by the Wayne County Community College, the National Association of Arab Americans and the Bank of Commonwealth here, which is partly owned by Arab investors.
“The Saudi Arabian government plans to spend $150 billion on economic development programs between 1975 and 1980 and we would like to see a good deal of the work done by American firms,” Tarek Shawaf, head of the biggest engineering consulting firm in Saudi Arabia, told the audience. But he warned that Canadian, German and Japanese companies hope that Congress passes the anti-boycott legislation so that they will get the orders that would have gone to the U.S.
The same warning was made by Michael Saba, executive director of the National Association of Arab Americans. “The United States is the only country in the world which has introduced anti-boycott legislation,” he said. He noted that at other seminars sponsored by his group. “We saw representatives from Germany, Canada and Japan” all hoping the U.S. would pass the legislation now pending in Congress.
Saba said the U.S. once accounted for 15 percent of the goods imported by Saudi Arabia but now supplies only 10 percent even though the Saudis are increasing their imports one hundredfold. Shawaf, who was one of the first Saudis to graduate from an American university, said his country no longer has to rely entirely on the U.S. for education and technology.
Other speakers included Samir El Khoury, Lebanon counsel general; Amin Hassan. Iraqi charge d’affaires, and representatives of the Embassies of Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Dr. Reginald Wilson, president of the community college, said the meeting was organized as part of the college’s efforts to provide education for Detroit’s 150,000-member Arab community. He said he hoped his school and schools in the Arab countries could develop exchange programs for students and teachers.