LOS ANGELES (Nov. 19)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir promised American corporate investors a new business-friendly climate in Israel as he wound up his four-day Los Angeles visit Monday evening with a pep talk to 200 Israeli and California industry leaders.
Urging U.S. industrialists “to shake off outdated impressions and stereotypes,” Shamir declared that the Israeli economy is at the cutting edge of world technology, fueled by a highly skilled labor force, and is “opening itself up to international trade and competition to a truly extraordinary extent.”
His government is “firmly committed to streamlining the bureaucracy,” Shamir stressed, and is aiming “to reduce inflation and abolish all remaining exchange controls.”
The prime minister, who had declared repeatedly that the main purpose of his 10-day visit to the United States was to drum up business for the Jewish state, capped a half-day seminar bringing together 16 top Israeli industrialists and close to 200 of their West Coast counterparts.
The Israeli delegation was led by Dov Lautman, president of the Israel Manufacturers’ Association. One observer estimated that the companies represented at the meeting accounted for 50 percent of all Israeli exports.
The caliber of the Israeli delegation was appreciated by Amos Freedy, president of Perceptronics in Los Angeles, who found it “invigorating to see successful businessmen rather than government officials” representing Israel.
“There is a clear vision of what’s needed at the top, but the key will be whether this vision will be propagated to middle management in Israel,” Freedy said.
One of Israel’s main selling points, said Lautman, is that it is the only country that has free-trade agreements with both the United States and the European Economic Community.
“Israel can serve as a bridge between American manufacturers and Europe,” he said.
Ronald Perlman, executive vice president of Intel International, said that the attitude toward Israel was shifting from making charitable donations to a more businesslike approach. “Donation is a crutch, investment is a cure,” he said.
Doing business with Israel still has its problems, according to Perlman, including the tendency by the Israeli side to dot every “i” and cross every “t” again and again in negotiating contracts and agreements. But with Israel’s urgent need to create 300,000 new jobs for immigrants, he hoped that this and other problems would ease.
Coinciding with the forum, Governor Pete Wilson of California told Shamir in a private meeting Monday that he was establishing a California-Israel task force to facilitate trade and investment.
Although clumps of U.S. and Israeli businessmen huddled throughout the afternoon, the main purpose of the seminar was not to strike deals but to “create an appetite for exploring future cooperation,” said Avi Elkind, the Israeli consul for economic affairs in Los Angeles.
Elkind, who organized the meeting, noted that trade between the U.S. and Israel totaled $6.2 billion in 1990 and that Israel ranks 21st among U.S. trading partners.
The Israeli delegation is scheduled to meet with East Coast businessmen in Boston on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, Malcolm Forbes, Jr., publisher of Forbes magazine, will host the Israelis in New York.