Washington, DC – In testimony today before the U.S. Trade Policy Staff Committee on a U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, Bill Reinsch, President of the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) urged the United States to begin negotiations on a U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement. “In strengthening U.S. ties with a key strategic ally committed to trade liberalization and economic reform, a U.S.-Bahrain FTA will demonstrate to other countries in the region the importance and benefits of free and open rules based trade,” Reinsch stated.
Reinsch testified on behalf of the NFTC, the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), and the National U.S. – Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC), organizers of the U.S.-Bahrain FTA Coalition, a diverse group of U.S. corporations and associations supporting a bilateral free trade agreement between the two nations.
In his testimony, Reinsch noted that Bahrain is already a reliable market for U.S. goods and services. Last year while U.S. imports from Bahrain totaled $395 million, U.S. business exported almost $420 million. American companies are exporting aircraft, machinery, vehicles, pharmaceuticals products, toys, sporting equipment and other products. U.S. business is also participating in the expansion of the aluminum smelter and many of the other oil related upstream and downstream industries being developed.
“Bahrain is a dependable and longstanding U.S. business partner in an unstable region. It has worked hard to diversify its economy; it has invested substantially in transportation and communications infrastructure, and already serves as an important hub for U.S. business in the Gulf region,” Reinsch continued. “As home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, there is a strong foundation of U.S.-Bahraini relationships and familiarity with U.S. products, services and technology, as well as the U.S. educational and healthcare system.”
In the last two years, Bahrain has embarked on an historic program of democratic reform, instituting a constitutional monarchy with an elected lower chamber of parliament, undertaking the creation of an independent judiciary, and granting women the right to vote and stand for office. “A free trade agreement with the United States will serve to increase economic opportunity in Bahrain which will in turn encourage further reform,” Reinsch stated. “Bahrain’s commercial and economic reforms and market opening measures as reflected in a high quality FTA are likely to encourage neighboring countries to pursue the same path.”
Creating the FTA with Bahrain builds on President Bush’s proposal for an overall Middle East Free Trade Area by 2013. Currently, the U.S. has a free trade agreement with Israel and Jordan, and is well under way in negotiating the proposed U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement. The NFTC serves as the co-Secretariat of the U.S.-Morocco FTA Coalition and has been a major champion of concluding a U.S.-Morocco FTA by the end of the year.
The National Foreign Trade Council (www.nftc.org) is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves 350 member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.