x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

US Treasury secretary Geithner in UAE

Timothy Geithner is the first senior US official to visit the UAE since President Barack Obama took office in January.

ABU DHABI // Timothy Geithner, the man in charge of the largest economy's treasury, kicked off a one-day visit to the UAE today with a low-key breakfast meeting with Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade, to discuss the importance of education. Mr Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary, is the first senior US official to visit the UAE since President Barack Obama took office in January. So while he arrives amid urgent questions in the region about the health of the US economy, its openness to Arab investment and about the Obama administration's stance on energy, regional security and Iran, Mr Geithner and local officials stressed that his visit was aimed largely at establishing a new and more reciprocal dialogue between Abu Dhabi and Washington.

"I believe America has a lot to learn from what countries around the world are doing," Mr Geithner said after his meeting with Sheikha Lubna. He said that his visit was aimed at strengthening the relationship with the UAE and the Gulf and to help drive a global conversation about how to make the global economy more sustainable and to avoid future crises. "Many of the challenges that you're seeing in Abu Dhabi and that the Emirates are confronting are challenges confronting the broader global economy," he said.

Mr Geithner's visit is part of a whirlwind, four-nation tour that has already taken him to London and Saudi Arabia, where he addressed business leaders' concerns about growing US government debt and the health of the US dollar, met with King Abdullah and visited a major Saudi refinery site. After his meeting with Sheikha Lubna on education issues, Mr Geithner was whisked into a meeting with the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. The US Congress is debating a civilian nuclear accord with the UAE that would enable the UAE to buy nuclear-energy technology and equipment from the US.

Mr Geithner is also scheduled to meet today with Sheikh Ahmed Al Nahyan, managing director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, as well as Nasser al Suwaidi, the Central Bank Governor, and with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, before leaving for France. The visit is designed to expand upon the tone set by Mr Obama during his trip to Egypt last month. Mr Obama stressed the need for Americans and the Muslim world to end a long cycle of mistrust. "There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other to learn from each other to respect one another and to seek common ground," he said in his address there.

Mr Geithner made clear early on that he is in the region to listen as much as to reassure Washington's Gulf allies with an itinerary that reflected the Obama administration's more consultative tone as much as did the contrast between Geithner and his Republican predecessor. When Henry Paulson came to Abu Dhabi shortly over a year ago, the former Wall Street banker lectured a packed auditorium at the Emirates Palace Hotel on US economic policy. Mr Geithner, a former central bank official and treasury bureaucrat with no experience on Wall Street or in public office, stayed at the same luxury hotel, but confined his morning meeting there to only a dozen people.

"It is conversations like this that move us one step closer to the President's commitment to deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world," he said in a statement released after his breakfast meeting. In addition to Sheikha Lubna, the meeting was attended by Reem al Hashimy, minister of state, Ahmed al Sayegh, chairman of both Masdar and Aldar and chief executive of Dolphin Energy, and Fahad Saeed al Raqbani, deputy director general of the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development.

warnold@thenational.ae