Archive for the ‘Ambassador Insight Series’ Category

GCC Insight Series: The Vision Behind the Numbers

On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, the GCC Insight Series featured a comprehensive overview of the business climate in the GCC region, marked with perspectives on the opportunities and challenges for companies looking to enter or strengthen their position in this lucrative export market. This program also served as an opportunity to renew the Bilateral Chamber’s’ commitment to an MoU with the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and His Excellency, Altaher Musabah Al Kendi Al Mara, Second Vice Chairman who presented a special address.

Offering a public sector viewpoint was Regional Senior Commercial Officer for the GCC, Dao Le, who provided an update on current and future trade trends between the U.S. and the GCC region. Barry Peters, Director of Project Management, Arabian FAL, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia delivered a private sector account of the opportunities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including those related to the Saudi Vision 2030 project.

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Ambassador Insight Series: Tunisia


Date: Friday, September 30, 2016

Location: Houston, TX

The long history of friendship and cooperation between the United States and Tunisia continues to be strengthened within the framework of mutual understanding and common adherence to the ideals and values of liberty, democracy, and free enterprise. On September 30th, 2016, the Bilateral Chamber was pleased to host a timely roundtable briefing featuring His Excellency Faycal Gouia, who offered his  insights into the current state of U.S. -Tunisia relations, along with opportunities available for U.S. businesses looking to invest and/or sustain ventures in the region.

On May 18, 2015, President Barack Obama accepted the credentials of H.E. Fayçal Gouia, a longtime high ranking member of his country’s foreign service, to be Tunisia’s Ambassador to the United States. This is the second time Ambassador Gouia has been posted to his country’s embassy in Washington.

Ambassador Gouia, who was born on July 10, 1959, attended the National School of Administration in Tunis, Tunisia.  He received a Master’s degree in 1984 and went into government service, beginning in the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs as the head of the International Relations Department.  After two years, he returned to the National School of Administration and earned an advanced Master’s degree in 1989 (Laureate).  He later attended the National Defense University in the United States and the National Defense Institute in Tunis.

Ambassador Gouia went back into government service in 1989, as Head of the Budget Management Division at the Ministry of Finance. He moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1993, first as Deputy Director for South Asia and later as Director for the Americas.

Ambassador Gouia’s assignments to the Tunisian Embassy in Washington began in 1995 as Cultural and Press Counselor, then went on to be its Economic and Commercial Counselor in 1997 as its Deputy Chief of Mission in 1999.

He returned to Tunis in 2001 to head the Americas Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Ambassador Gouia received his first ambassadorial assignment beginning in 2006 in Jakarta, Indonesia. He was accredited to Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and, beginning in 2007, to Malaysia and Brunei as well.

Ambassador Gouia returned home in 2010 to become Director General for Africa and the African Union and in 2011 he was appointed Director General for the Americas and Asia in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  In January 2014, he was named Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.  One of the issues he worked on was the number of kidnapped Tunisians in neighboring Libya.  He held that job until being named Ambassador of his country to Washington.

Ambassador Gouia is Chevalier of the Republic Order and was granted the Distinguished Alumni Award of the Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in 2013.

Ambassador Gouia is married and has two daughters. He speaks Arabic, English and French.

Africa Insight Series: South Africa


On Monday, June 20th, 2016, the Bilateral Chamber was pleased to host Africa Insight Series, featuring a keynote address by His Excellency, Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu, South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States. His Excellency presented a candid overview of the various opportunities available for U.S. businesses looking to initiate and/or sustain business ventures in South Africa.

SA Ambassador_17H.E. Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to the United States

Ambassador Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu, commonly known as “MJ” by his colleagues and friends is the current Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to the United States of America having presented his credentials on 23 February 2015.

His public and political life started in the late 1960s when he was elected President of the Student Christian Movement, in the then Eastern Transvaal. From 1973 to 1976 he served as Assistant Secretary of the Transvaal United African Teachers Association.

He is one of the leaders who played a critical role in the processes leading up to the first democratic South Africa. Between 1991 and 1994, he was a negotiator at the Congress for Democratic South Africa (CODESA) and the Multiparty Negotiation Forum. In 1993, he became the Co-Chairperson of these bodies. From 1993 to 1994 he was a member of South Africa’s Transitional Executive Council.

After the first democratic elections in 1994, he joined the National Assembly in the Parliament of South Africa as a representative of the African National Congress. He became a member of the Constitutional Assembly (CA), the body that drafted the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. As a member of the CA, he chaired the Core Group of the Theme Committee on Chapter 4 dealing with Parliament. During his tenure as a Member of the National Assembly he also served as Chairperson of House Committees.

In 2002, he was elected Permanent Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in Parliament. After the third democratic elections in 2004, he was re-elected Permanent Deputy Chairperson of the Council. In 2005 he was elected the Chairperson of the NCOP and was re-elected in 2009. He served in this position until the fifth democratic elections in 2014.

He has represented South Africa in many international platforms, including the UN and G20 Speakers Conferences. He was the leader of the South African Parliament’s delegation to the Pan-African Parliament. His duties in this continental body included serving in the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline. He has held the positions of Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region) and President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (International) respectively.

He is married to Nomaswazi and they are blessed with five children, two daughters and three sons.

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Ambassador Insight Series: GCC

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T.H. Barbara A. Leaf     T.H. Joseph W. Westphal    T.H. Douglas A. Silliman
U.S. Ambassador to the
United Arab Emirates
U.S. Ambassador to the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
U.S. Ambassador to the
State of Kuwait


On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, Bilateral Advisory Board Member and former U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain, The Honorable Adam Ereli, moderated a panel discussion with three of his most distinguished peers: The Honorable U.S. Ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. 

This program was a highly rare opportunity to gain first-hand insight from these tenured foreign service officers. Representing what are arguably the most influential countries in the GCC, these Honorable Ambassadors along with their senior commercial officers shared their views on the following topics, among many others:

  • Is the current socio-economic climate leading the GCC countries to find more common ground?
  • What steps are the countries taking to face challenges as a collective force?
  • Is the decline in oil prices leading to reforms that will encourage additional growth in the non-hydrocarbon private sector?
  • What are the challenges for U.S. companies looking to do business in the GCC and how can they be overcome?

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Ambassador Insight Series: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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T.H. Robert W. Jordan, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

On December 15, 2015, the Bilateral Chamber was pleased to co-host an informative briefing with The Honorable Robert Jordan, former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ambassador Jordan shared with the participants his experiences serving as U.S. Ambassador from 2001-2003, amidst the 9/11 climate. Additionally, Ambassador Jordan offered his first-hand perspectives on current U.S.-Saudi relations as they relate to the Kingdom’s internal progress regarding women’s rights and reform, Saudi youth and education, and the role of developing business and foreign investment in Saudi Arabia.

Robert Jordan is Diplomat in Residence and Adjunct Professor of Political Science in the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001-2003. He took charge of his mission in the wake of the attacks of September 11 at a critical time in U.S.-Saudi relations. He was a partner in the international law firm Baker Botts L.L.P. for many years and headed the firm’s Middle East practice based in Dubai.

He is Vice Chair of the Tower Center Board of Directors and of the Board of Governors of the Middle East Institute. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a past president of the Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas Committee on Foreign Relations. He is a member of the American Arbitration Association Commercial Panel of Arbitrators, the Panel of Distinguished Neutrals of the CPR International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution, and the London Court of International Arbitration. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Bilateral U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce and is a frequent commentator with international media including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, Bloomberg and the New York Times. His memoir, Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11, was published by Potomac Books in 2015.

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Ambassador Insight Series: Kuwait

On May 5, 2015, the Bilateral Chamber hosted an executive roundtable with The Honorable Douglas A. Silliman, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait. In addition to providing first-hand insight into recent commercial and FDI reforms in Kuwait, Ambassador Silliman offered an overview of key business and investment opportunities across a wide variety of industry sectors.

Douglas A. Silliman was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate as the Ambassador of the United States of America to the State of Kuwait.  Ambassador Silliman arrived in Kuwait City in August 2014.

He served in 2013-2014 as a Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in the Department of State in Washington, D.C., working on Iraq issues and the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2012 to 2013 and Minister Counselor for Political Affairs in Baghdad from 2011 to 2012. He was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Ankara, Turkey from 2008 to 2011. He joined the Department of State in 1984 and is a career member of Senior Foreign Service.

Ambassador Silliman earlier served as Director and Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Southern European Affairs, as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, and as the Regional Officer for the Middle East in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Ambassador Silliman worked as political officer in Islamabad, Pakistan, in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs, as Lebanon Desk officer, and as Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. He began his career as a visa officer in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a political officer in Tunis, Tunisia.

Ambassador Silliman received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science summa cum laude from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He earned a Master of Arts in International Relations from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.

He has received numerous awards from the Department of State, including the Secretary’s Award for Public Outreach in 2007 and senior performance awards. The American Foreign Service Association gave Ambassador Silliman its Sinclaire Language Award in 1993 and the W. Averill Harriman Award for outstanding junior officer in 1988.  He is married and has two children.  He speaks Arabic and French.

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Ambassador Insight Series: Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to the United States

H.E. Lukman Faily at the podium with Mr. Godfrey and David L. Phillips

H.E. Lukman Faily , Anthony Godfrey,  U.S. State Department and David L Phillips, Chairman of the Board, Bilateral Chamber

On November 5-7, the Bilateral Chamber organized a multi-faceted business development mission for Iraqi Ambassador H.E. Lukman Faily during his inaugural visit to Houston, TX. The aim of this visit was to strengthen economic and cultural relationships between Houston and Iraq. The visit included the following briefings, site visits, and community events:

In addition, the three day visit included a breakfast briefing on November 6, where H.E. Ambassador Faily gave a “sobering, yet hopeful” address to a gathering of more than 100 Bilateral chamber members and supporters.

The program began with a special address by Anthony Godfrey, Iraq Country Director from the U.S. Department of State. Mr. Godfrey provided his first hand insight into the current U.S. position regarding the political security and economic outlook between the U.S and Iraq, stressing the importance of continuing to support Iraq as it works to rebuild its infrastructure and move toward a stabilized democracy.

Ambassador Faily then took the stage and provided some very frank viewpoints on the current state of affairs across multiple fronts. He noted that the situation with ISIL has served as a ‘wake up call’ to both the public and private sector leadership across all regions in Iraq and will, hopefully, result in a stronger and more united Iraq in the end.

On economic relations, the Ambassador stressed the importance of U.S. businesses maintaining a long-term view and staying the course toward developing mutually beneficial partnerships with their in-country counterparts. He acknowledged that the road to building truly reciprocal relationships will not be easy, but in the end, is absolutely necessary for mutual success.

Overall, the Ambassador’s message was one of cautious optimism about the future. He strongly affirmed his personal and professional commitment to supporting bilateral cultural and trade relations with the U.S private sector and expressed his thanks to the business leaders that continue to join him in this commitment.

The Bilateral Chamber thanks its members, sponsors, supporters and participants for their involvement and for being part of the ongoing conversation as Iraq seeks to make strides on the path towards stabilization.



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His Excellency Lukman Faily

H.E. Lukman Faily

H.E. Lukman Faily

Appointed May 2013

Ambassador Faily represents a rising generation of professionals, business leaders, and civic activists who have returned in recent years to rebuild Iraq as a free-market democracy. Since his appointment as Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, he has worked tirelessly to improve US-Iraq relations, as well as drive efforts to rebuild and improve the daily lives of Iraqis everywhere.

 Prior to his appointment as a diplomat in various countries, Mr. Faily lived in the United Kingdom for 20 years, working in the Information Technology sector for several transnational companies. During his last ten years in the UK, he held senior management positions in two major American companies, Ceridan Centrefile and then Electronic Data Systems, which is now part of Hewlett Packard. In addition, he held consultancy and team-leader positions in the Information Technology sector. While living and working in the UK, Mr. Faily was an active leader within the large Iraqi exile community and served as a trustee for several non-governmental Iraqi organizations.

 From June 2010 until May 2013, Mr. Faily served as Iraq’s Ambassador to Japan. Prior to being Iraq’s ambassador to the US, he served as an Ambassador at the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Faily holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK in 1988. Continuing his postgraduate studies, he has completed a Master in Business Administration (MBA) in Technology Management and a postgraduate degree in Computing for Commerce and Industry. Mr. Faily was born in Baghdad and is also Fluent in English, Arabic and Kurdish.


July Marked Another Successful Bilateral Chamber Direct Insight Call Program

Ambassador Wahba

Ambassador Marcelle Wahba

The third program in our well-received new Direct Insight Call series took place on July 29, 2014 and was focused on Egypt and its renewed strategic role in the region. Led by U.S. Ambassador and Bilateral Advisory Board Ambassador Marcelle Wahba, this call provided participants with first hand insight into the changing geo-political role of Egypt in light of current events.

Ambassador Wahba shared her insights and expertise concerning Egypt’s current political and economic climate, potential challenges facing the new administration, and the future of U.S.- Egypt relations. Overall, the Direct Insight Call program inspired overwhelming interest and was another successful and substantive event.

We thank all participants from across the U.S. and the Middle East for their valued time, involvement and questions.

The Bilateral Chamber team is proud of the freshly added Direct Insight call-in series to our existing portfolio of informative and relevant business programming, and we hope that you’ll join us on a call in the near future! For additional information on upcoming Direct Insight opportunities, please contact Vranae Pavlich at

Ambassador Insight Series: U.A.E.

On May 8, 2014, The Honorable Michael Corbin, U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, joined a select group of Bilateral Chamber Members for an executive roundtable discussion on the current and future outlook for U.S. businesses looking to do business in the Middle East.

Ambassador Corbin speaking in front of the executive roundtable

T.H. Michael Corbin – U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates – addresses audience questions regarding the current business climate and possible opportunities available in the UAE at the Bilateral Chamber’s Ambassador Insight Series: United Arab Emirates event hosted by Bracewell & Giuliani on May 8th, 2014.

Joined by our hosts at Bracewell & Giuliani, The Honorable Michael H. Corbin, United States Ambassador to the U.A.E. led an executive round table discussion giving participants the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions with the Ambassador on a variety of U.S. and U.A.E. trade topics.

Registrants for this program gained rare access to Ambassador Corbin’s first hand insights on the U.A.E.’s aggressive efforts to diversify its economy and develop new industrial and commercial sectors and how they plan to leverage the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” toward this end as they prepare to host the 2020 WorldExpo in Dubai.

A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, The Honorable Michael H. Corbin most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Prior to this assignment, he was Minister-Counselor for Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 2008 to 2009 and Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria from 2006 to 2008.

Ambassador Corbin served as Minister Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo from 2003 to 2006. He was Deputy Director of the Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2001 to 2003. He served as Director of the Counter-Narcotics Section at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela from 1997 to 2001 and Political-Military Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt from 1994 to 1997. His first overseas post was at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia from 1985-1987. He served in Kuwait from 1987 to 1989. Ambassador Corbin joined the Foreign Service in 1985.

The U.A.E. continues to serve as a strategic commercial hub for U.S. companies doing business across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. U.S. exports to the U.A.E. have increased by 25% driven by the following leading sector growth:

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Ambassador Insight Series: Qatar

More than 100 multi sector leaders from across the Middle East and the United States gathered on May 6, 2014 at the offices of the Bilateral Chamber Strategic Partner member Bracewell & Giuliani to participate in Ambassador Series: Qatar.


T.H. Susan L. Ziadeh – U.S. Ambassador to Qatar – makes the case for doing business in Qatar at the Bilateral Chamber Ambassador Insight Series program on May 6th, 2014.

During her keynote address, The Honorable Susan L. Ziadeh, U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, urged a roomful of senior U.S. and MENA business leaders to take advantage of the Qatari Investment Authority’s intent to “pivot to the United States” as she underlined vast opportunities in healthcare, ICT, and infrastructure as Qatar readies itself for Qatar World Cup 2022.


T.H. Susan L. Ziadeh – U.S. Ambassador to Qatar – poses for a photo with H.E. Mohammed A. Mohammed Al Homaid – Qatar Consul General to Houston – and Mr. John Brantley – Bilateral Chamber Advisory Board Member & Chairman of the Middle East Practice group at Bracewell & Giuliani.

Following her insightful remarks detailing expected Qatari projects and legislation and what they mean for U.S. companies thinking about expanding or initiating a presence in Qatar, Ambassador Ziadeh and Commercial Officer Robert Dunn accepted audience questions about regional politics, the consumer goods sector, and best practice business models in Qatar.

With the highest GDP in the world, Qatar is one of the most sought-after markets for U.S. companies in MENA.  Qatar maintains one of the world’s highest levels of capital spending on education and healthcare, and invested over $9 billion in FY 2012/2013 in these sectors alone.


Mr. John Brantley – Bilateral Chamber Advisory Board Member & Chairman of the Middle East Practice group at Bracewell & Giuliani – introduces T.H. Ambassador Susan L. Ziadeh at the Bilateral Chamber’s Ambassador Insight Series: Qatar event held on May 6th, 2014.