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US cyber-security trade delegation to Kuwait undeterred by surveillance leaks
October 5, 2013, 12:36 pm
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A leading US official, tasked with international trade, said he was confident that efforts to help US cyber security firms market their technology in Kuwait would not be undermined by recent internet surveillance revelations.

US Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez was leading a delegation of 12 US companies on a cyber-security and critical infrastructure protection trade mission, for the second time in two years, to Kuwait after an earlier stop in Saudi Arabia.

Asked whether leaked information revealing US secret surveillance programs of global phone and internet communications by a former NSA agent earlier this year would be a hurdle to his mission, Sanchez told reporters that he did "not believe it has." He described the delegation's meetings in Kuwait as "great", adding that the gatherings included "various ministries, the oil company, (and) a utility company (Ministry of Electricity and Water)." "The services at hand are "very important to the protection of sabotaging important facilities," like the ones he mentioned.

These wide range of services are very "valuable," he said, "The demand is there and we have world-class products and services ... I haven't seen any lack of interest." The 12 companies also met with Kuwaiti businesspeople, he added.

The US firms, some described as providing "state-of-the-art technology or services in cyber security" and one or two providing other types of security services "not cyber-related" - include big names like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, DataLocker and FireEye.
The US firms are seeking Kuwaiti "agents or representatives," he said, "that have expertise in cyber security," as they "understand that in order to be successful in the Kuwaiti market they need to have a presence here." A study conducted by the Dubai-based IT solutions provider Gulf Business Machines (GBM) found that 71 percent of Kuwaiti IT experts questioned thought cyber-criminals could target the country.

Some 42 percent of respondents from Kuwait businesses admitted they had experienced a security incident in the last 12 months, with 27 percent of incidents staff-related. Cyber-security risks within businesses have escalated with the increased use of social media by staff, said the research.

The study highlighted a lack of IT security assessments, with 32 percent of respondents stating their workplaces do not regularly screen their IT infrastructure to keep it protected from cyber-criminals. Cliff Spier, Vice President of Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions (one of the companies on the visit) told the Wall Street Journal in a press release ahead of the visit, that "based on expertise we gleaned from defending our own networks, our cyber solutions maximize the ability for any sector - defense, energy, education, or healthcare - to detect and respond to evolving cyber threats.

"Every day, organizations around the world are continually exposed to a full spectrum of tenacious, sophisticated and targeted cyber-attacks. Leveraging experience gained from protecting the Lockheed Martin network as well as the networks of our government and commercial partners, Lockheed Martin developed an Intelligence-Driven Defense approach that comprehensively defends networks from advanced threats.

"Placing special emphasis on intelligence analysis, characterization and prediction, Lockheed Martin's sophisticated Intelligence-Driven Defense solutions evaluate the threat landscape and help avert attacks that could potentially harm networks and infrastructures," he added.

Sanchez, who was handpicked by the Obama administration about a year after the President was voted into office in 2009, added that he was also in Kuwait "to promote two-way investment - investment in Kuwait but also investment in the United States - and later this month, we will be holding the first-ever SelectUSA Investment Summit." The summit, which seeks to highlight the advantages the US offers as a business and investment location, will be held on October 31 and November first in Washington DC.

Companies from around 60 countries will be introduced to attractive promotion and incentive packages from representatives from around 45 of the 50 United States. "I want to see a very strong delegation from Kuwait attend the investment summit," he said.
Currently, foreign direct investment from Kuwait into the US ranks 13th on a list of fast growing sources of investment in the US. "We welcome investment from Kuwait," he said.

Two-way trade with Kuwait last year was around USD 15 billion, he said, with "Kuwait selling a lot more to the US than we sold to Kuwait." On the other hand, the US has had back-to-back years of record exports of USD 2.1 trillion in 2011 and USD 2.2 trillion in 2012.

"In 2010 figures suggested that about 258,000 American companies exported abroad. Three years later, that figure has risen to 300,000" - meaning that the number of exporters has increased and that their exports have increased as well.
Sanchez attributed this rise to improving productivity, "so we're able to put together high-quality products at a production cost that remains competitive," decreasing energy costs and a recognition that "you should compete in a global market not just within the borders of the US."

On opportunities presented to those intending to invest in the US, he said these include a globally-leading business climate, a transparent and strong legal system, a workforce that is very productive and access to academic institutions that companies can partner with for innovation.

"In almost any important ranking whether it's the World Bank, whether it's the World Economic Forum, whether it's the Economist (magazine), the United States consistently ranks in the top five, sometimes it drops to the top 10, as one of the best places in the world to do business," he said.

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