The governments of the United States of America and the State of Kuwait held the fourth U.S.-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. on November 24, 2020. U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo hosted Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah for the concluding session of the Dialogue. Our two countries took the opportunity this year to reaffirm our shared commitment to promote the stability and security of the region. Bilateral working groups met over the preceding two weeks and advanced our strategic partnership in political, human rights, development, defense, security, trade, investment, education, consular affairs, customs, border protection, and health. Today’s Dialogue builds on the March 2019 Strategic Dialogue meetings in Kuwait and represented over a year of work by the Strategic Dialogue’s working groups. In addition to starting the fourth Dialogue, we are marking the inauguration of a sixth working group focused on political, human rights, and development cooperation.
This Strategic Dialogue process, begun in October 2016, has materially benefitted both nations, and today we are taking further steps to serve our people. The Strategic Dialogue and its working groups help set our bilateral agenda for the next year on some of the most pressing issues in the world. A stronger relationship between the United States and Kuwait is a powerful statement for peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.
Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Minister Al-Sabah are pleased to announce today that the Foreign Minister, in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, together with USAID Chief Assistant to the Acting Deputy Administrator Max Primorac, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Kuwait Fund and USAID. This MOU opens a strategic channel for global development cooperation to share priorities and experiences in sectors such as energy, stabilization, and food security. The Secretary and Foreign Minister are also pleased to announce the signing of an MOU to facilitate cooperation on health issues, medical research, and knowledge-sharing and a Declaration of Intent to negotiate a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The Secretary and Foreign Minister are also pleased that Kuwait issued a statement that it intends to review and consider the benefits of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (“Budapest Convention”).
The Secretary and Foreign Minister recognize this year marks the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Shield, and next year will mark the 30th anniversary of Desert Storm and the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two nations. Both sides will continue to work together to commemorate and celebrate these milestones in U.S.-Kuwait cooperation and friendship. As a result of decades of close collaboration, Kuwait has become a regional leader in the promotion of peace and security. We look forward to decades more of our mutually beneficial partnership.
The United States acknowledged the lifelong efforts of His Highness the late Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in mediating regional disputes and bridging divides. His Highness was a close friend of the United States and a tremendous force for peace and cooperation in the region. Looking to the future, the United States is committed to a strong partnership with His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and the Kuwaiti government.
Earlier this month, the United States and Kuwait held the inaugural meeting of the Political, Human Rights, and Development Working Group. This Working Group represents a significant deepening and broadening of the bilateral relationship and is intended to provide a forum to discuss and achieve progress on political and regional issues of mutual interest, including human rights, labor reforms, and development and humanitarian assistance.
During this Working Group, the United States and Kuwait discussed the most pressing regional political issues, including the Gulf dispute, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran.
The United States reiterated its appreciation for both the late and current Amir’s sustained mediation efforts to reach a settlement of the dispute among GCC members. The United States and Kuwait renewed their call for a resolution to the dispute. Our countries share a common view of the need for GCC unity in effectively confronting the region’s many challenges, and in promoting peace and prosperity in the region.
The United States recognizes the continuous efforts taken by Kuwait towards maintaining security and stability in Iraq. The importance of a stable government in Iraq, free of malign foreign influence, is a clear objective of both the United States and Kuwait. We support the ongoing meetings of the Joint Iraq-Kuwait Higher Ministerial Committee and applaud its efforts to resolve the question of the maritime boundary. We also welcome efforts by Kuwait and Iraq to retrieve and return Kuwaiti remains from the Gulf War. This work exemplifies how countries can emerge from conflict and develop mutual respect and a commitment to shared interests. The United States also welcomes Kuwaiti efforts to stabilize Iraq and bring it closer to its Gulf neighbors. Both countries reaffirmed Iraq’s sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity.
Our delegations reiterated the need for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 to help end the Syrian conflict and bring lasting stability to that country. The United States and Kuwait are committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS and the removal of all external forces from Syria.
The United States and Kuwait discussed the importance of using only trusted vendors in critical information and communications technology infrastructure. The United States also looks forward to continuing to collaborate in international fora to support religious freedom around the world.
Our two nations strongly believe Lebanon must embrace reform. We call for accountability, transparency, and political reform that puts the needs of the Lebanese people first. We appreciate Kuwait for being the first country to provide emergency relief after the Beirut port explosion and for continuing to look for ways to help Lebanon rebuild.
The United States welcomed the GCC efforts to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran. The United States and Kuwait stand together against the destabilizing influence of the Iranian regime across the Middle East.
The United States appreciates Kuwait’s significant contributions to peace and security in some of the world’s most troubled regions and its willingness to provide direct assistance to internally displaced persons, as well as to refugees hosted in other countries. Kuwait is an important aid donor, and Kuwait’s goals of regional stability and prosperity are shared by the United States. The United States also welcomes Kuwait’s continued humanitarian assistance for Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, and for Rohingya refugees. The world will benefit from the efforts of two of the world’s largest providers of humanitarian aid and development assistance.
The United States and Kuwait remain committed to ending trafficking in persons, a modern form of slavery. The United States welcomes Kuwait’s recent efforts at combatting trafficking in persons amid COVID-19. We commend the recent passage of Kuwait’s first law to target domestic violence and look forward to its implementation, including prioritization of victim protection. We also agreed to continue our close collaboration to advance labor rights. The United States welcomes Kuwait’s decision to request accession to the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Prisoners, which will allow us to establish procedures for prisoner transfers between the United States and Kuwait.
The United States and Kuwait reaffirm their steadfast commitment to the national security of both countries and to the stability of the Middle East. The United States expresses its deep appreciation for Kuwait’s leadership in mediating solutions to regional military challenges and for its dedication to a strong defense cooperation relationship. The United States and Kuwait have successfully adapted and continue operations through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has strengthened our bond and built greater resiliency between our armed forces.
The military leadership of both countries seek a secure future for regional stability through the continued modernization of Kuwait’s armed forces and its increased interoperability with the United States and other like-minded countries across the full range of military operations. The Kuwait-U.S. defense partnership is built on a long-term, integrated strategy encompassing modernization, sustainability, infrastructure, training, exercises, and operations. The Joint Military Commission will continue to guide the development and refinement of this strategy and the investment required to quickly project power, deter aggression, and counter threats. The U.S. military leadership commends and appreciates the longstanding security cooperation between the two militaries and the generous support U.S. forces receive from Kuwait.
The United States and Kuwait are steadfast partners in the fight against terrorism. Together, we are making the Kuwaiti and American people more secure. The United States and Kuwait intend to promote national security by developing coordinated strategies and approaches to defeating terrorism both at home and abroad. The United States reiterated its appreciation for Kuwait’s cooperation and facilitation in the effort to ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS.
Both countries intend to further steps to combat the financing of terrorism. We appreciate Kuwait’s continued commitment to strengthen its anti-money laundering and counterterrorism practices, increased information sharing, and support for joint action against terrorist financiers through multilateral fora, such as the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC). Training of Kuwaiti prosecutors and regular workshops provided by the United States are helping the Kuwaiti government bring those engaged in the support or financing of terrorism to justice. The United States and Kuwait intend to continue this collaboration.
The United States welcomes the joint Declaration of Intent to negotiate a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which was signed during the Dialogue. An MLAT would enhance the ability of the United States and Kuwait to pursue their law enforcement objectives by creating a regularized channel for obtaining evidence and law-enforcement cooperation for use in criminal prosecutions and investigations. Such a regularized channel would strengthen law enforcement in both countries.
The United States welcomes Kuwait’s letter expressing its intent to review and consider the benefits of the Budapest Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (“Budapest Convention”). The Budapest Convention provides a comprehensive and coherent framework on cybercrime and electronic evidence. It serves as a guideline for any country developing comprehensive national legislation against cybercrime. In addition, the Convention provides a framework for international cooperation among State Parties to the Convention by establishing harmonized domestic criminal legislation in the field and providing a legal framework for transnational law enforcement cooperation in investigations, evidence sharing, and extradition.
The United States and Kuwait expressed their intent to enhance cybersecurity and the cyber defense capability of the Government of Kuwait, including its financial institutions and critical infrastructure through training, technical assistance, and information sharing. The United States intends to advance mutual security and counterterrorism goals by aiding Kuwait in mitigating malicious cyber activities.
The United States supports Kuwait’s efforts to build a more diversified, innovative, and knowledge-based economy. The United States stands ready to partner with Kuwait as it develops clean IT networks free from the threat of data piracy and security vulnerabilities.
Trade and Investment
Increased trade and investment ties between Kuwait and the United States have contributed to the growing prosperity of both countries. Two-way trade reached more than $4.5 billion in 2019. Bilateral investment positions remain strong due to enhanced cooperation in the investment field. We continue to work on initiatives in healthcare, enhancing the regulatory framework to improve the business and investment climate, and improving cybersecurity. Both countries intend to seek ways to continue reducing barriers to trade and investment.
Growing commercial relations between the United States and Kuwait complement our close official bilateral relations. During the Fourth Annual U.S.-Kuwait Economic Forum on November 17, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) met to discuss next steps towards deepening the U.S.- Kuwait economic relationship and commercial opportunities. The U.S.-Kuwait Business Council, composed of corporate members from both countries, celebrated its first year of existence with a discussion with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Kuwait has been an active long-term investor in the United States, mainly through the Kuwait Investment Authority. The United States recognizes the efforts of KDIPA in facilitating investment procedures in Kuwait. Kuwait Vision 2035 provides potential fertile ground for further direct investment in Kuwait.
The United States commends Kuwait for making significant improvements to its intellectual property regime. The improvements were reflected in the United States Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report in 2020. The State of Kuwait appreciates the praise from the United States on intellectual property rights issues and related legislation. Our two countries will continue to take steps to increase the effectiveness of Kuwait’s intellectual property enforcement efforts against counterfeit and pirated goods.
COVID-19 challenges the economies of all the countries of the world. The United States and Kuwait are strengthening their bilateral relationship in healthcare and healthcare management. The MOU signed between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Kuwait’s Ministry of Health is intended to enhance cooperation in the areas of public health, biomedical research, medical technology, and medical sciences, further improving critical knowledge-sharing and exchange of best practices for effectively responding to the pandemic.
Educational and People-to-People Ties
Five generations of Kuwaitis have studied in the United States. Every year, both countries continue to encourage Kuwaiti young people to join the thousands of Kuwaitis currently studying in the United States. Graduates of U.S. universities become leaders in government, business, and academia. The United States and Kuwait intend to continue to work together to improve the quality of English teaching, expand college advising, and increase U.S. university outreach to Kuwaiti students, to afford the increasing numbers of Kuwaiti students access to world-class educational options available in the United States.
During the 2017 Strategic Dialogue, the United States and Kuwait signed an MOU for cooperation in the field of higher education, which has already resulted in many productive academic and professional exchanges. We intend to continue to cooperate closely to prepare Kuwaiti students to succeed at quality U.S. educational institutions.
In the field of English training, this year the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education and the U.S. Embassy jointly launched an intensive English course for Kuwaiti public school teachers and intend to train local teachers to administer this course. For the past year, the U.S. Embassy has also funded an afterschool English course for underprivileged students in Kuwait.
In support of exchange programs for youth, the U.S. Department of State, the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, and the Kuwait College of Science and Technology will work together to implement the Stevens Initiative, a virtual exchange program for university students in the United States and Kuwait. Additionally, the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences plans to sponsor a group of Kuwaiti high school students to attend the EducationUSA Academy, whenever conditions allow for the resumption of in-person exchanges.
The United States and Kuwait continue to build on the Statement of Intent on Cultural Cooperation that the two countries signed last year by expanding the range of cultural visitors between the two countries. This year, U.S. and Kuwaiti artists are collaborating to produce musical tributes and visual art pieces to mark the 30th anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation and the shared sacrifices of our people during that time.
The two governments also discussed further areas of collaboration, including increasing professional and academic exchanges through educational and cultural exchange programs such as the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, and the U.S. Speakers Program.
Consular Affairs, Customs, and Border Protection
We reaffirmed our commitment to the security, safety, welfare, and just treatment under the law of our nationals in Kuwait, the United States, and around the world. We welcomed the progress of both countries in providing consular notification and access to detained citizens. The United States and Kuwait are working to enhance our partnership to prevent and resolve international parental child abductions according to the laws and regulations in both countries. The United States looks forward to further discussions with Kuwait to enhance bilateral cooperation to reduce the number of cases in which one parent takes children without the consent of the other parent.
We concluded the addendum for the Automated Targeting System-Global (ATS-G) and Interconnection Security Agreement (ISA) in 2019. Our countries remain committed to operationalizing a system under this agreement to allow our two nations to detect potential threats to border and national security, and identify known and suspected terrorists, foreign fighters, and transnational criminals.
The United States welcomes Kuwait’s decision to request accession to the Council of Europe Prisoner Transfer Convention. Once Kuwait formally accedes, this will establish the basic requirements and procedures for prisoner transfers between the United States and Kuwait.
The United States welcomes Kuwait’s decision to renew the MOU between the Ministry of Finance’s General Administration of Customs (KGAC) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to facilitate the continued presence of CBP personnel in Kuwait for the purposes of enhanced cooperation on border security issues.
For the benefit of both countries, Kuwait reiterated its longstanding interest in becoming a pre-clearance border point to the United States.
The United States and Kuwait reiterated our commitment to further increasing cooperation in all areas of practical benefit to our governments and our peoples.
Today, we set a roadmap for the advancement of our relations in the coming year. Bilateral working groups held over the past weeks will continue to work together to: better operationalize Kuwaiti and U.S. defense systems; modernize jointly-used military facilities; extend information sharing and cooperation to thwart acts of terrorism; strengthen our collaborative efforts to advance human rights; enhance cybersecurity; expand trade and investment; protect and enforce the intellectual property rights of Kuwaitis and Americans; broaden our educational and research linkages; cooperate to provide high quality, cost-effective healthcare; and facilitate travel between our countries. We look forward to making further progress in these areas when the Dialogue takes place next year in Kuwait.