Finance chiefs Jacob Lew, Yair Lapid talk U.S.-Israel economic development

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid met to talk about economic development between their countries.

On Wednesday, the two finance chiefs in Jerusalem also discussed economic measures targeting regional threats.

“I commend Minister Lapid on the strengths of the Israeli economy and the ambitious set of fiscal reforms that the Israeli government has undertaken to reduce its fiscal deficit and boost growth,” Lew said in an address to a meeting of the U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Development Group. “As one of the most technologically advanced and innovative economies in the world, Israel is an important economic partner to the United States.”

Lew in his address outlined plans to “liberalize trade standards, increase market access for agricultural products, and advance a new bilateral science and technology agreement.” Trade in goods and services between the United States and Israel amounts to $45 billion annually, he noted.

Lew, who also is visiting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Germany on this tour, has on his agenda “continued cooperation on efforts to disrupt the financial and support networks of terrorist organizations,” according to a statement released last week announcing the tour.

In his speech, Lew defended the lifting of some sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear talks underway between Iran and the major world powers. He pushed back against critiques from some Republicans and pro-Israel groups that sanctions relief under the Joint Plan of Action, the rubric for the nuclear talks, has been a boon to the Iranian economy.

“It is now clear that ongoing sanctions against Iran remain in place, and that the temporary, targeted and reversible sanctions relief provided by the Joint Plan of Action has been extremely limited,” Lew said.

“During the same six-month period, Iran is losing a significant amount in oil sales alone from the sanctions that remain in place, more than the value of the temporary relief. Iran sanctions are the toughest the world community has imposed on any country and its economy is suffering a serious blow as a result – an impact that is not being reversed.”

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