US trade representative discusses free trade agreement with Bahrain
US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick met with Bahraini officials in Manama on June 19, 2003, to discuss a possible free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries. Briefing afterwards with Bahrain's Minister of Finance and National Economy Abdullah Saif, Zoellick said the FTA would not only support the government's reform efforts but will also boost Bahrain's worldwide reputation as a climate for safe and lucrative investment and business.
A free trade agreement, said Zoellick, “removes all tariffs or taxes on goods or agriculture, but in our case we also try to open up the services market, we try to have a high standard for intellectual property, we try to develop openness in transparency rules, we try to open up government procurement, so it requires an economic partner that can truly modernize a competitive economy."
Bahrain, he said, was already developing a reputation as "one of the first post-oil economies" through its increased reliance on the service industry, manufacturing, and education, besides its mineral resources.
Minister Saif said an FTA was not only an agreement between the two governments. "This issue touches on the daily lives of Bahrainis, and on business professionals in both countries, it touches on all sectors, finance, information technology, financial services, health care, and tourism," he said.
Ambassador Zoellick praised Bahrain's economic and political reforms, pointing out that the government had made important changes in intellectual property and financial service rules, and had low trade tariffs, saying that in some ways, "Bahrain is far ahead of the curve."
"I can assure you that the reforms that have been taken here are as good as I have seen anyplace else, and therefore I am quite confident that we can move quite quickly," said Zoellick.
He said he hoped that other Gulf countries would decide to participate in the FTA, saying the agreement was not meant to exclude other countries, but rather to "try to draw others to it." "[I]f people start to see the Gulf region as one where there's an opportunity to make money and do business, then this is an excellent location to work from," he said. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)