WASHINGTON -- Nearly 16 months after first pledging to help Egypt's failing economy, the Obama administration is nearing an agreement with the country's new government to relieve $1 billion of its debt as part of a U.S. and international assistance package intended to bolster its transition to democracy, administration officials said.
The administration's efforts, delayed by Egypt's political turmoil and by wariness in Washington about new leaders emerging from its first free elections, gained new urgency in recent weeks, even as the United States risks losing influence and investment opportunities to countries like China, which President Mohammed Morsi chose for his first official visit outside of the Middle East.
In addition to the debt assistance, the administration has thrown its support behind a $4.8 billion loan being negotiated between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund.
Last week it dispatched the first of two official delegations to work out details of the proposed debt assistance, as well as $375 million in financing and loan guarantees for U.S. financiers who invest in Egypt and a $60 million investment fund for Egyptian businesses.
Hoping to capitalize on what they see as a ripening investment climate, the State Department and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will take executives from nearly 50 U.S. companies like Caterpillar and Xerox to Cairo beginning Sept. 8 as part of one of the largest trade delegations ever