Kuwaiti Minister for Commerce and Industry Abdullah Abdul Rahman Al-Taweel addressed a group of American businessmen at the US Chamber of Commerce February 10, 2004 to inform potential trade and investment partners of the opportunities that are opening up in the northern Gulf region with the reconstruction of Iraq and with the Kuwaiti government's steps toward establishing a free trade agreement with the United States.
Al-Taweel maintained that the regime change in Iraq is having an effect on the entire region. He went on to say that Kuwait's modern infrastructure and strong banking institutions make it an ideal base for gaining access to the opportunities arising from these changes.
In response to audience questions about competition from Dubai and Bahrain for the position of regional investment hub, the minister pointed to Kuwait's proximity to Iraq as well as its historic and current economic ties with its northern neighbor as factors that make Kuwait a more favorable base for involvement there.
Later in the day at Washington's National Press Club, journalists raised the question of whether Al-Tanmia Commercial Marketing Company's alleged overcharging for gasoline provided to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root indicated an environment in which companies would be expected to pay special commissions for access to Kuwaiti and Iraqi markets.
Al-Taweel responded, "If you go within the law, you shouldn't have any problems, and if you violate the law, the procedures should take care of that. I'm happy to announce today that the parliament has decided to refer this to a committee, and they will investigate, and whatever report comes, I think the government will respect."
In his remarks at the Chamber of Commerce, the minister also pointed to the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) that he signed February 6 with the US Trade Representative (USTR) as an important step toward establishing a better environment for trade and investment between the United States and Kuwait.
The TIFA is the first major step towards establishing a
free trade agreement (FTA). Al-Taweel informed the audience, "We're going to start today in negotiation of the free trade area, which we think is going to take about a year. And we hope that we can end it and sign it as soon as possible."
Kuwait is the second Gulf country to engage in trade and investment negotiations with the United States. Bahrain began formal FTA negotiations with the USTR in late January 2004. The Bush administration has adopted an initiative to establish a Middle East Free Trade Area by 2013 and is pursuing this goal through a series of bilateral trade agreements. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )