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TRADE page 3
about the trade forum. And one,
Tallal Turfe of the Detroit Inter-
faith Round Table, said he was
surprised, considering that Mr.
Fawaz is a member of the exec-
utive committee of the Round
Carl Rashid, a chairperson of
the American Arabic and Jewish
Friends, also hadn't heard about
the conference. Nor could he re-
call a similar reaction to a non-
But, he said, both the Jewish
and Arab communities in the
metropolitan area can be touchy
about the other.
"What we try to promote is a
community harmony between
the two communities, an under-
standing, a cultural exchange,"
Mr. Rashid said.
The all-day forum at the Novi
Hilton features speeches by offi-
cials from the U.S. Overseas Pri-
vate Investment Corporation and
the U.S. Department of State,
among others, and seminars and
panel discussions by Commerce
Department officials and Michi-
gan companies that are eager to
make commercial inroads in the
Middle East and North Africa.
Representatives of the various
countries, including Egyptian
Ambassador Ahmed Maher El
Sayer and Moroccan Ambassador
Mohamed Benaissa, will talk
about opportunities in both the
private and public sectors.
"This is a sign right here that
there is an incredible change" in
relations between Israel and its
neighbors, Mr. Corson said. De-
spite the recent Hamas-inspired
terrorist bombings in Israel, "I'll
emphasize: Trade is a win-win
He said it's highly unlikely the
chamber will reverse its decision,
but, "we will, of course, continue
to work with the American Arab
Chamber of Commerce. The up-
shot is, we're going to have a very
exciting conference. American
companies should get a tremen-
dous amount out of it," Mr. Cor-
In the meantime, reaction to
the withdrawal of the American
Arab Chamber of Commerce
ranged from puzzlement to dis-
Shelly Jackier, a co-chairper-
son of American Arabic and Jew-
ish Friends, speculated that local
Syrian and Lebanese business-
people might have influenced the
"There are a large number of
businesspeople in the communi-
ty with ties to those countries, so
maybe it's more understandable,"
But, "the whole idea is to take
the politics out of business and
make business the focus of this
conference. Unfortunately, with
the peace process taking place,
there will be incidents taking
place that will detract from the
purpose of the conference and
create sensitivities. Once there
is more interaction among coun-
tries in the Middle East — poli-
tics will always be there —
people who are serious about de-
veloping business ties will be able
to focus their attention on that."
Michael Traison, president of
the America-Israel Chamber of
Commerce of Michigan, is slated
to speak at the conference on
commercial opportunities in Is-
rael. He noted that the American
Arab Chamber of Commerce "is
exactly the kind of organization
we've tried over and over again
to identify, and when we find an
organization like this, we want
to work with them."
Despite Mr. Fawaz's valiant
attempts in the past to win the
support of the Arab chamber's
members for events involving Is-
rael, a "conservative" and "aloof'
attitude still prevails, Mr. Trai-
"But we think it's probably an
old-fashioned attitude that will
As an advocate of vigorous
trade between Israel and its
neighbors, Mr. Traison believes
economic growth in the region is
the way to a lasting peace.
"The Israeli policy has been
and continues to be that we
should do whatever we can to
build the economy of the region.
It's not an altruistic policy; it's
one based on our conviction that
peace is going to be best secured
in an area where people have
food in their stomachs, money in
their pockets and opportunities
before them," he said.
The March 20 conference, Mr.
Corson said, is a way of infusing
capital in the region.
In 1994, Michigan trailed only
California, Texas and New York
in the amount of goods it export-
ed to overseas markets.
According to U.S. Commerce
Department figures, the Middle
East is a top destination for
Michigan products. In the third
quarter of 1995, Michigan com-
panies exported $140 million
worth of goods to Saudi Arabia
and $74 million to IsraeL Its third
and fourth largest markets in the
region were United Arab Emi-
rates and Kuwait, followed by
Lebanon and Qatar.
Michigan's biggest exports are
industrial machinery and com-
puter technology. ❑
b eginsat7:30 ii40#0. cost
for the 'full day, including a
continental breakfast, lunch
and materials, is $100. For in-
formation, contact Richard
Corson at the Pontiac Export
Assistance Center, (810) 975-