"We want US companies much more involved in Israel"

US commercial attaché in Israel Robyn Kessler talks to "Globes" about the bilateral trade and investment relationship, ahead of the SelectUSA Summit.

"In 2017, Aeronautics participated in a SelectUSA event that we held. Through the business matching that we organized for them in the framework of the event, they invested in the US by acquiring a company. In June last year, they announced a new factory and headquarters, and just this afternoon one of my colleagues sent a picture of the factory. They'll celebrate its launch in a few weeks' time," Robyn Kessler, Senior Commercial Officer in the US Commercial Service Tel Aviv, who took up her post nine months ago in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, related with pride in conversation with "Globes".

Kessler came to the US mission in Tel Aviv following three years as Executive Director, Office of the Middle East and Africa, in the US Department of Commerce in Washington. "The growth that Israel is going through in infrastructures is amazing. Everything seems to be under construction here," she says, sharing her impressions, and compliments Israel on the way it has conducted the battle against the coronavirus pandemic: "Every economy has been damaged in one way or another, but Israel's resilience and the way in which it dealt with the crisis are an astonishing achievement."

The occasion for our talk is the annual SelectUSA Investment Summit in June, to be held online this year, aimed at attracting investment in the US from all over the world. Kessler is the counterpart of the of the Israeli commercial attachés working on behalf of the Ministry of Economy and Labor around the world to make the Israeli economy accessible to local companies in the countries in which they are stationed.

The Summit is normally held annually in the US capital under the auspices of the Department of Commerce, and is aimed at assisting overseas companies to expand their export markets or open a branch in the US. Since it was inaugurated, the Summit has contributed to raising over $47 billion of inward investment in the US and to creating more than 47,000 new jobs in the country.

For many companies, the US market is a desirable goal, but not the only one. In the light of growing competition from other economies, such as the EU, even a country like the US is investing efforts to ensure that the flow of investment continues and that the US market remains an easy one in which to do business. Is the competition against other countries and technological ecosystems tougher today? "It's not tougher," Kessler says, "it's more intense."

Kessler, who had visited Israel several times before coming to Tel Aviv in her current position, during the period in which she held a similar position in Moscow, points out the importance of US-Israel commercial relations. "The first free trade agreement between any country and the US was with Israel, and since then trade has grown eight-fold," Kessler says. "Bilateral trade between the two countries now stands at some $47 billion annually. That's a significant amount. It puts Israel in 24th place globally, and in second place in the Middle East and Africa region.

"We're very interested in US companies becoming much more involved in doing business in Israel," she adds. "It's a win for all sides."

Advice and information on entering the US market

"In 2019, Israeli companies invested $36.6 billion in the US, and contributed to the creation of about 27,000 jobs for Americans," says Sigal Mendelovich, Investment Specialist at SelectUSA - Israel. "In addition, Israeli companies invested nearly $1 billion in research and development in the US, and achieved a return of $750 million in exports to the US." Kessler points out that this amount puts Israel in first place among Middle East and African countries.

The main task of the commercial attachés is on the one hand to help US companies do business overseas and to encourage exports, and on the other hand to help foreign companies understand the advantages of the US market and to encourage them to invest in it directly. A third activity is encouragement of partnerships between Israeli and US companies.

The Summit will thus offer companies advice and information on the process of entering the US market, on the incentives for businesses provided by the various states, advice on legal aspects, taxation and logistical considerations, and virtual one-on-one meetings with the economic development organizations of each of the fifty states.

The Summit offers a specific track for international startups employing up to 40 people and with annual revenue of up to $10 million. They will be given the opportunity of making presentations to potential investors, and of connecting with technological incubators and senior people in the industry. This year, Kessler says, a special track has been opened for women entrepreneurs, to match them with American women entrepreneurs who will act as mentors.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on April 29, 2021

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021

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