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Education and research central to future U.S.-Algerian relations

Article - June 26, 2012
Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali celebrates the two countries’ ties and welcomes further strengthening in all areas
Since 2008, Abdallah Baali has been the Algerian Ambassador to the U.S. and can vouch for the ever-strengthening relations between the two countries.

“In the political field, over the last four years, we’ve been able to put into place a robust and comprehensive dialogue on most regional and international issues of common interest,” he says. “In trade and investment, the U.S. has been for several years our first trade partner with a global volume of exchange oscillating between $17 and $21 billion, thus making the U.S. Algeria’s first customer as well as one of the top investors in the Algerian hydrocarbon sector.”

He points out that in addition, agro-business, pharmaceuticals, alternative energies, construction and tourism are sectors that hold great potential and that investors should be encouraged by Algeria’s “unique political and social stability,” which stand out nowadays in a region battered by uprisings.

“There is a growing interest in Algeria and the U.S. to create more bridges, exchanges and links between universities and research centers
in both countries.”

Abdallah Baali,
Ambassador of Algeria to the United States of America

“I am very optimistic about continuing growth in economic ties and in scientific, education and cultural co-operation.”

Henry S. Ensher,
Ambassador of the United States of America to Algeria

Algeria-U.S. relations go beyond business, however, extending into cultural areas, especially in terms of education. “There is a growing interest in Algeria and the U.S. to create more bridges, exchanges and links between universities and research centers in both countries and I am very optimistic about the progress we can make in the coming years in this particular area,” says Mr. Baali.

The Algerian Embassy in Washington is sharing its celebrations of the country’s 50th anniversary of independence with the American public throughout 2012, with a series of cultural programs and events including Algerian film festivals, concerts, fashion shows and art exhibitions, held in the largest cities.

These events will give North Americans a peek into modern-day Algeria. Ambassador Baali invites “Americans from all walks of life to come to Algeria and discover a country where people have successfully blended ancestral values such as hospitality into the requirements of modern life.”

Mr. Baali’s counterpart, U.S. Ambassador to Algeria Henry Ensher, also plays a key role in maintaining the two nations’ healthy ties, believing that prospects for strengthening relations in all areas are excellent. He says, “I am very optimistic about continuing growth in economic ties and in scientific, education and cultural co-operation.

Mr. Ensher is no stranger to Middle Eastern and North African affairs: before his appointment to the Embassy in Algiers in the summer of 2011, he had served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Afghanistan Affairs, Senior Civilian Representative-South in Afghanistan, Chairman of the Department of Near East and North Africa Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, and Deputy Political Counselor in Baghdad, among other positions.

Mr. Ensher knows there is still much work to be done, as the Algerian government’s policies are vital when it comes to consolidating long-lasting business relationships, and some foreign investors have been unimpressed by measures such as the 51/49 rule in joint ventures. 

He says: “That is why the major challenge for us and Algerians is to work together to address the concerns that caused the Algerian government to have this kind of restriction and to work with them to address those concerns and eliminate the obstacles.”

But the Ambassador also believes the responsibility for fortifying bonds does not lie solely with governments: “The most important element of the relationship is not between the governments, but rather between societies, between the peoples, and that is the solid base that we’re trying to build now.”

He says that the embassy is working towards this target and “when there is interaction by Algerians going to the U.S. or Americans coming here, we always make sure they talk to the societies rather than to the governments, thus greater understanding will come and this is the basis for a long-term strong partnership.”