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Volume 21, Number 5September/October 1970

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Photographed by Khalil Abou El Nasr

The signs seen on these pages are only a few of the most obvious and more colorful symbols of US commercial and industrial involvement in the Middle East—an involvement, according to one study group in Washington, worth close to $2 billion each year to the United States.

Taken with North Africa, and including the oil industry, American investment and trade in the Middle East is the source of nearly $2 billion net annual inflow into the United States. Close to one fourth of this ($500 million yearly) comes from the export of American industrial goods, services and consumer products from firms as diversified as lBM, MGM and 3M.

American companies sell everything from chicken feed to caterpillars, from cornflakes to carwashes. As might be expected, more than 20 oil supply companies vie for a share of the market, but also, surprisingly, almost the same number of pharmaceutical companies. Eight U.S. tire companies are pushing their treads. There are 12 insurance companies, nine banks. Both Avis and Hertz are trying hard. Pan Am and TWA are moving heaven, Allis-Chalmers and International Harvester earth.

Some companies have also worked out local licensing arrangements so that products as varied as Libby's tomato catsup, Chicklet chewing gum, Devoe paints, Kleenex and Tide and Otis elevators are packaged, assembled, or processed in Middle East countries. Sales direct from U.S. factories or their European subsidiaries are even bigger business, however.

Regional headquarters for most American companies in the area is booming Beirut, where the 390 US corporation representatives located there in 1967, grew to 451 in 1968 and 499 by the end of 1969. By spring the total was over 500, according to the U.S. Embassy's Commercial Section which issues a 160- page directory listing them. The lobby directories of such Beirut office buildings as the Starco Center (Bache & Company, Boeing, Francis I. du Pont, Hilton Hotels, ITT, Singer, Merril Lynch) and the Picca dilly Center (Carrier, Esso, Goodyear, Marsh & McLennan, Smith Corona,) would look at home in many US cities.

With Japan, France and Germany already solidly intrenched, Russia, East Europe and even China edging in, the economic future of U.S. trade in the Middle East is impossible to predict now. But in the meantime one thing is certain. The signs shown on these pages, at least, couldn't be brighter.

This article appeared on pages 2-7 of the September/October 1970 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for September/October 1970 images.