A delegation of American business leaders led by Commerce Secretary Ron Brown held meetings here aimed at strengthening trade relations between the United States and Israel and encouraging regional development to further the peace process.
“I think it is important for us to look to the future in terms of how we can work together to create an environment for regional economic development,” Brown told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and other Cabinet ministers Sunday.
Rabin told Brown during their meeting that 40 percent of the Palestinian gross domestic product is derived from work performed in Israel, a situation that prevents the Palestinians from building their own economic infrastructure.
Rabin proposed as a solution the construction of industrial areas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank along Israel’s borders.
Brown said the closure of the territories imposed by Israel after Jan. 22 terror attack at Beit Lid Junction was “economically devastating” to the Palestinian economy.
But he added, “We certainly understand the concern for security.”
He said Monday that ongoing terror attacks against Israelis were creating an obstacle to both the peace process and regional economic development.
“Investors want a certain comfort level,” he told reporters. “They want to know that their investments are safe.
Brown said he would raise the issue of terrorism during talks he has scheduled with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Also Monday, Brown participated in a meeting of the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission, which he established one year ago with Israeli Trade Minister Michael Harish to encourage hi-tech research and development in both countries.
At a news conference in Jerusalem, Brown and Harish announced the recipients of research grants from the commission.
The commission has promised to cover about half the estimated $24 million costs of the projects, which are being run by American and Israeli companies.
The three projects chosen from more than 100 submissions were in nuclear medicine, renewable solar energy and a project for the cultivation of marine life.
Also, Israel and the Unites States recently marked the 10th anniversary of their free-trade pact.