The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted the leadership of Israel’s Ministry of Finance for a discussion with the business community on ways the private sector can work with the Government of Israel to strengthen U.S.-Israel commercial relations.
Yael Andorn, the Director General, and Yoel Naveh, the Chief Economist, both expressed their commitment to engaging with the private sector to address issues and identify opportunities. Discussions like this are an important channel to communicate “how we as a government can help promote the business sector,” said Andorn. “In so many ways, we can work together.”
The Israeli cabinet approved the 2015 budget last week. The 328-billion-shekel budget (roughly $88 billion) is similar to the 2014 budget, but with an additional 6-billion-shekel increase in defense spending. Andorn touched on Israel’s security challenges, but added that Israel continues to remain a resilient economy based on technological advancement.
Earlier this month, Moody’s maintained Israel’s A1 rating as a safe place to invest. According to the agency, Israel’s economic growth, entrepreneurial dynamism, and stable political system ensured that Israel would remain a good risk for investors. In September, both S&P and Fitch assigned Israel an A+ Stable rating and an A Positive rating, respectively.
While Israel’s reputation as an entrepreneurial hotbed is well-founded, Andorn explained that “we don’t just want start-ups, we want big companies.” She continued that it is incumbent upon the Finance Ministry to lead governmental efforts to design tax systems, stable regulatory frameworks, and national budgets supporting economic growth.
The Chamber has proposed the creation of a U.S.-Israel Strategic Economic Dialogue, which would provide a consistent avenue for both governments and business sectors to meet and discuss shared economic opportunities and challenges.
“With Israel, we feel we have a lot to gain by being involved in your economic dialogue,” said Josh Kram, Director for Turkey and Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber. “The business community needs to be at the table.”
The U.S. and Israel have an annual macroeconomic dialogue, the Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG) meeting, which is chaired by the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the U.S. Department of State. There has been movement to expand this dialogue to include strategic sectors such as energy and cyber security.
Andorn expressed a favorable view towards upgrading this dialogue, including establishing an avenue for private sector participation. The most recent JEDG took place in Israel this past June, and had more than 80 combined participants from the two respective governments, including U.S. Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew and Israeli Minister of Finance Yair Lapid.
The Chamber led a business mission to Israel in coordination with this year’s JEDG. Prior to the delegation, the Chamber shared a set of private sector recommendations with actions both governments could take to support economic growth.