U.S. and Palestinians Renew Economic Dialogue Paused Under Trump

Officials from the U.S. government and Palestinian Authority met virtually to discuss economic cooperation, strongly indicating Biden's commitment to improving U.S.-Palestinian relations

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U.S. President Joe Biden smiles in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, on Monday.
U.S. President Joe Biden smiles in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, on Monday.Credit: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/ REUTERS

Senior U.S. and Palestinian officials on Tuesday met virtually to renew the U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue—the first meeting of its kind in five years after the Trump administration ceased such cooperation.

According to a joint statement, officials from a wide range of agencies and ministries in the U.S. government and the Palestinian Authority will discuss current and future areas of economic cooperation.

"Participants recognized the importance of restored political and economic relations between the U.S. government and the Palestinian Authority and pledged to expand and deepen cooperation and coordination across a range of sectors," the statement noted.

During the meeting, officials discussed issues such as infrastructure development, access to U.S. markets, U.S. regulations, free trade, financial issues, renewable energy and environmental initiatives, connecting Palestinian and American businesses, and addressing obstacles to Palestinian economic development. The dialogue also included a discussion of international trade relations.

The two sides concluded the dialogue by agreeing to work on several crucial issues to advance the economic prosperity of the Palestinian people. The U.S. government outlined programs that could support the Palestinian Authority’s efforts towards financial issues, trade, and promoting foreign direct investment, the joint statement added.

Officials and figures monitoring the developments believe the meeting is notable for several reasons, beyond the resumption of the dialogue itself. First, the presence of U.S. officials from several areas of the federal government – including the State Department, USAID, the U.S. Embassy, and the Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce and Energy – strongly indicate a cross-governmental commitment to normalize U.S.-Palestinian relations. Further, it indicates the Biden administration's belief that it should maintain a bilateral relationship with the Palestinians independent of Israel.

The conversation comes after the Palestinian Authority cut ties with the U.S., except for intelligence coordination, following Trump's relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem.

After the meeting, the Palestinian Authority stressed the words of Deputy Secretary of State Yael Lempert, who said that the Biden administration believes in the right of the Palestinian people to live in peace and security, and that the economic investment is ultimately geared toward a two-state solution as well. 

A senior Palestinian official involved in the meeting said that, although the meeting signalled a dramatic change from the Trump administration's approach to the Palestinians, the conversation was still framed around civic and policy issues with no bearing, at least in the short-term, on a broader resolution to the conflict. 

The meeting occurred days after USAID chief Samantha Power offered a full-throated defense of U.S. aid to the Palestinians, decrying the politicization of such assistance in recent years.

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