The US State Department has appointed Pakistani-American businessman Dilawar Syed as Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs. An entrepreneur for the past 20 years, Syed has run a number of companies in the fields of software, artificial intelligence and healthcare.
According to the State Department,
“Special Representative Syed brings a strong background in business and entrepreneurship, having built global enterprises in the fields of technology, healthcare, and business services.”
During the administration of President Barack Obama, he played an active role in promoting the State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program and in “connecting Silicon Valley innovators with emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems.” He was also the founding Chair of the California Entrepreneurship Task Force, where he worked to bridge coastal regions with the state’s rural heartland. He made efforts to help small businesses struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Having emigrated to the US during his student days at the College of Wooster in Ohio, he went on to gain a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
The tasks of the Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs include efforts to advance trade, commercial, and economic policies for US workers and the middle-class, and to help create well-paying jobs. According to the State Department, “Special Representative Syed will lead efforts to support the export activities of U.S. companies through approved commercial advocacy and to create and advance a level playing field for U.S. workers and companies overseas.”
Earlier on, Republicans in the Senate small business committee had objected to Syed’s nomination, citing the fact that he had been a board member of Emgage Action, a Muslim-American advocacy group that is critical of Israel’s policies in occupied Palestinian territories.
US Senator from Idaho James Risch, from the Senate foreign relations committee, had led the initial opposition to Syed’s appointment, along with seven other Republicans. Syed had then gone on to distance himself from the pro-Palestinian worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sactions (BDS) movement. Eventually, the lobbying group American Jewish Committee defended Syed, describing the Republican accusations against him as “base and un-American,” while also citing his work with the San Francisco Jewish community and his visit to Israel.