The US Chamber of Commerce’s US-Israel Business Initiative led its inaugural trade mission to Israel this week, bringing executives from top American life-sciences companies to explore potential partnerships.

This visit comes two months after the government requested responses from international corporations on a new program to encourage research and development in Israel’s life-sciences industry. The program aims to attract foreign companies to establish R&D centers here and to invest in long-term projects.

“Our companies need to be in Israel,” Myron Brilliant, the US Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for international affairs and delegation leader, told The Jerusalem Post during a break from the program in Tel Aviv on Monday.

“Life sciences is not well represented here in comparison to traditional technologies such as what Intel or Microsoft represent,” he said. “[However], in recent years there has been an increased effort to develop the industry in Israel, which we have learned about over the past two days of meetings with government and private-sector officials.”

Multinationals Boston Scientific, General Electric, Medimmune, Merck, Oracle and Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA were all represented in the delegation.

Although it was only a three-day visit, it included meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry Chief Scientist Avi Hasson and private-sector representatives.

Netanyahu and other officials demonstrated to delegates how seriously they take the life-sciences industry, Brilliant said. But the 1985 Free Trade Agreement must be updated, he said, and Israel must institute regulatory reforms in the areas of intellectual property and taxation to encourage more American companies to establish centers here.

The US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

It launched its USIBI program in 2010, making Israel one about 20 countries of focus.

Most American multinationals are aware that Israel has an entrepreneurial culture and a highly educated workforce, Brilliant said, “but they don’t necessarily understand how to do business here, where the specific opportunities are and what kinds of incentives the Israeli government will provide them.”

“What we want companies to recognize – even beyond the multinationals that are part of our program – is that through partnering with start-ups in Israel, even those in the early stages of development, you can produce great products that will be sold around the world,” he said.

“America brings scale, America brings marketing expertise, know-how and avenues for distribution,” Brilliant said.

“By working together with Israeli companies, we can create the new Googles, the new Facebooks and the new Intels.”

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