You are hereThink Progress: How The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce’s Egyptian Affiliate Went To Bat For The Egyptian Dictatorship
Think Progress: How The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce’s Egyptian Affiliate Went To Bat For The Egyptian Dictatorship
January 27, 2011- As Egyptian protests continue to rage and thousands of people in that country continue to demand democratic reforms, many commentators are rightly calling upon the international community to show solidarity with the demonstrators and join them in battling the Mubarak regime.
However, there is at least one powerful, multinational entity that has continually stood by Mubarak and the Egyptian elite and has continually fought efforts to democratize the country. As ThinkProgress previously reported, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce maintains a network of foreign affiliates known as Amchams, “which are foreign chambers of the Chamber composed of American and foreign companies.” In Egypt, this foreign affiliate is known as the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, known in short as AmCham Egypt.
AmCham Egypt’s relation to the Mubarak dictatorship stretches back decades. In fact, the Egyptian dictator even personally intervened to create the organization. In 1981, Mubarak issued an order to allow for the creation of the AmCham by giving it an exemption from Egypt’s strict NGO laws — which help limit the influence human rights and democracy promotion organizations. Since then, the chamber has grown to have hundreds of members. While roughly 75 percent of the organization’s members are Egyptian businesses, many of them are also large Western multinational corporations, like Coca Cola and BP. The Chamber’s member companies account for nearly 20 percent of Egypt’s GDP.
When a powerful corporate-backed entity like the AmCham Egypt gains favorable treatment, it is natural for it to try to protect its patron. So last year, when a group of U.S. Senators — lead by Russ Feingold (D-WI) — introduced legislation that called on the government of Egypt to end crackdowns on pro-democracy activists and hold free and fair elections, AmCham Egypt, at the behest of the Egyptian dictatorship, sprung into action.