A large and high profile US trade delegation due to arrive in Libya in February is signaling a further thawing of Libyan-American relations.
Representatives from 25 American companies will accompany Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale during the US government’s first trade mission to Libya since the renewal of bilateral relations three years ago.
“Libya’s government is making efforts to diversify the economy and encourage private-sector participation in new manufacturing and service activities,” Lamb-Hale said in a statement released by the US department of commerce. “As Libya moves forward with its transition, it holds potentially rich trade opportunities in almost every sector of the economy.”
US exports to Libya in 2008 totaled $720 million, according to the department’s figures.
The US embassy in Libya said that participating companies include The Boeing Company, Electrolux International, Harley Davidson Motor Company and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems.
“Libya is increasingly coming under the radar of potential foreign investors,” Philippe Dauba-Pantanacce, Senior Economist with Standard Chartered Bank Dubai, United Arab Emirates told The Media Line.
“Navigating through the intricacies of the Libyan’s red tape can be daunting,” he said. “But at the same time, the hydrocarbon rich country represents a land of under tapped opportunities.”
“Libya finally approved at the end of January a law allowing for the establishment of a free trade zone designed to attract foreign investment in tourism, trade and services and allowing for the free movement of capital and goods with a ten-year tax break,” Dauba-Pantanacce said.
The delegation’s visit follows a gradual thaw in American-Libyan relations. In May 2007, then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice removed Libya from the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism due to Libya’s stated abandonment of its weapons of mass destruction program - believed to include nuclear weapons - back in 2003.
Frosty relations typified Muammar al Ghaddafi’s early years in power, starting in 1969, when he provided training for a number of European terrorist organizations such as Northern Ireland’s IRA and Spain’s ETA.
In January 2001, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, was convicted for his involvement in the Lockerbie bombing in which a New York-bound An Pam airplane was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988.
Despite removing Libya from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, the country remains among 14 countries, whose flights and passengers are subject to enhanced security screening when flying to the United States.
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