Thursday, March 22, 2007

International team busy in Washington

About 70 local business and community leaders are in the nation’s capital for the annual Washington Legislative Action Mission, organized by the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. Wednesday was the last full day of activities. The mission is divided into five teams: business, defense, homeland security, international affairs and education/health care. George Boutin, executive director of the Colorado Springs Office of International Affairs, e-mailed this report on the activities this week of the international affairs team:

Our group visited the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where we were greeted by Tarik Al Lagany, the embassy's information officer. We were surprised to hear him speaking perfect English with a very New York — almost Brooklyn — accent. Tarik was born in Saudi Arabia and is still a Saudi citizen, but he grew up on Manhattan's Lower East Side. We questioned him about everything from energy policy to role of women in Saudi society. Saudi Arabia has plenty of oil, but very little water, so the country has been forced to develop water conservation techniques, some of which might be useful in Colorado. And even though it won't run out of oil any time soon, it is investing heavily in alternative energy technology, especially solar energy.

The team also met with trade officials at the Embassy of India who were particularly interested in programs available in Colorado Springs for educating students in the sciences and engineering. Tuesday evening the ambassador of India, Ronan Sen, and Mrs. Sen hosted a dinner for the entire Legislative Mission at their residence. In his welcoming remarks, the ambassador noted that the relationship between the U.S. and India has improved in recent years and bilateral trade is growing rapidly. We invited the ambassador to visit Colorado Springs and to speak to the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council.

During the conference, the international team also had the opportunity to hold meetings at the Department of Commerce, specifically the International Trade Administration, where we met with officials of the Trade Information Center. We discussed opportunities for trade with Canada, which is the largest foreign trade partner for the United States and for Colorado, not to mention our largest foreign source of energy. The Commerce officials also discussed the North American Free Trade Agreement and its effects on trade with both Canada and Mexico.

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