The US and Israel Must Grow Their Economic Alliance Under Trump

Israel contributes to a range of critical sectors in the U.S. economy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to visit the US on February 15.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to visit the US on February 15. Kirsty Wigglesworth-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Given President Donald Trump’s sharp focus on both creating U.S. jobs and bolstering U.S. support for Israel, we have a significant opportunity to grow the commercial and economic alliance between our two countries. Historically, this aspect of the bilateral relationship is overshadowed by our security alliance. However, the U.S.-Israel commercial relationship supports thousands of jobs in both nations, and bilateral commerce drives game-changing innovation benefiting both economies.

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Yet, we have only scratched the surface of the potential of what our economies can accomplish together. The Trump administration can seize on that opportunity and forge a new strategic economic partnership with Israel.

Both the White House and the Prime Minister’s office can direct their governments to establish a new mechanism to address a range of bilateral economic, trade and competitive issues—such as a high-level economic dialogue.

Unlike many other trading partners, the two governments lack a permanent body charged with taking a holistic policy approach to key economic issues. As a result, the multiple and loosely-coordinated efforts by the U.S. and Israeli governments today make it difficult to realize the full potential, especially for complex challenges.

A high-level economic dialogue could consist of an annual meeting led by senior officials at the White House, Office of the Prime Minister, and other agencies and ministries to focus on issues such as regulatory cooperation, trade relations and innovation policy. By raising the level of bilateral economic cooperation, this dialogue would broaden the scope of consultations and could help drive greater accountability among both governments. In conjunction with the dialogue, leading U.S. and Israeli business associations could organize an annual conference to provide a structure and direct opportunity for businesses to offer advice to the government on key economic issues.

Furthermore, Israel contributes to a range of critical sectors in the U.S. economy that can be amplified and expanded through engagement with the private sector—including cyber, water, advanced manufacturing and infrastructure.

First, Israel is a world-leader in cyber technologies, claiming 20 percent of the industry’s global investment-spend last year. As the world grapples with increasing military and commercial threats in cyber space, the U.S. and Israel could forge a closer bond to develop standards and best practices for cyber protection, response and resilience.

Second, from the water crisis in Flint, Michigan to the punishing drought in California, the U.S. has experienced a number of major water-related challenges. Israel excels in water management. Through smart policies, pioneering technologies like desalination and drip irrigation, and with an entire ecosystem of companies working to solve water problems, Israel has much to share in this arena.

Third, as the Trump administration develops plans to bring back manufacturing jobs to the U.S., Israel’s innovation in a wide range of industrial technologies—such as robotics, production systems, and heavy machinery—can enhance the performance and competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers and support highly-skilled American workers.

Finally, our economic ties can support President Trump’s efforts to put Americans to work. Israel is pioneering technologies in so-called “smart infrastructure,” which brings computing power to improve the efficiency of our roads, waterways, bridges and power stations. Through sensors and analysis of big data, the infrastructure of the future will be increasingly responsive and resilient.

The U.S. and Israel are global pacesetters in high-impact commerce and innovation because—decades ago—our leaders pursued groundbreaking public policies, like America’s first free trade agreement in 1985.

As a result, America now exports more to Israel—a nation of just eight million people—than it does to Russia or Indonesia, even though Russia’s economy is seven times larger and Indonesia has 31 times more people. Israel is also an outsized investor in the American economy, investing more than Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Russia, or all of Africa. Israel’s investment in America helps create good jobs across the country, such as the nearly 9,000 employed by Israel’s leading drug company, Teva Pharmaceuticals.

The Trump administration can capitalize on our special relationship with Israel, a relationship historically focused on national security issues. By adding a new economic pillar to our strategic alliance and creating a mechanism for government and business to come together around these critical growth areas, our leaders can help grow the U.S.-Israel alliance to new heights.

Joshua M. Kram is senior director for Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he oversees programs and policy initiatives to broaden commercial relationships between the United States and markets in the Middle East. Kram advises corporate leaders on public affairs, regulatory, and business development matters.

The US and Israel Must Grow Their Economic Alliance Under Trump