News & Events>> Bahrain-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Signed
14 September, 2004   Reads:10263    
The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United States of America was signed today in Washington D.C. at 10:30 a.m. (5:30 p.m. Bahrain local time).

The FTA was signed in the prestigious Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House. A room that witnessed the signing of a number of historical international treaties including Bretton Woods - establishing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - and the UN Charter.

Signing for the Bahraini side was H.E. Abdulla Hassan Saif, the Minister of Finance & National Economy, and for the United States the US Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Robert B. Zoellick.

In his speech at the signing ceremony, H.E. Saif conveyed best wishes from His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, His Highness the Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, and His Highness the Crown Prince and Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

The Minister referred to the event as the result of a strong commitment by the political leadership in both countries to develop further the two nations’ strong relationship.

He praised the Bahraini and US teams of negotiators for their continuous dedication and hard work that made the FTA a reality. “They worked tirelessly to realize this historic moment,” he said.

He also expressed his deep gratitude to the co-chairs of the Bahrain Congressional Caucus, U.S. Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Jim Turner (D-TX) and to the co-chairs of the US-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement Coalition (USBFTAC), Mr. Lionel Johnson of Citigroup Inc and Mr. William Rice of ALCOA. He said the coalition would not have been functional however without the continuous efforts of the co-secretariats : The Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), The National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) and the member companies.

The Minster echoed scholarly sources, saying that the islands which now constitute the Kingdom of Bahrain first stepped onto the stage of history some 5,000 years ago as the centre of one of the great trading empires of the ancient world. This was the civilization of Dilmun which developed as the regional centre of trade and commerce because of its location along major trade routes. In the early decades of the 20th century, oil was discovered in Bahrain. However, Bahrainis maintained a close focus on the traditional trading activities which had sustained them for thousands of years.

From 1975, many financial institutions began to look for a stable base in the Middle Eastern region. The natural choice was Bahrain. Building on its long history of trade and commerce, it was an easy step for most of the world’s banking giants to move their operations to Manama. A concerted effort to upgrade Bahrain’s legal, social and technological infrastructures has allowed the financial industry to flourish with confidence in an environment of transparent transactions.

According to recent studies, the banking sector in Bahrain today has assets of some $108 billion US (end of June 04). Bahrain is now home to some 362 financial institutions which includes banking units, representative offices, money and foreign exchange brokers, insurance companies and reinsurance. “Bahrain is incontestably the Financial Capital of the Middle East,” said H.E. the Minister.

He reviewed the significant political and social progress of which Bahrainis are justifiably proud, citing the promulgation of the new Constitution; the bi-cameral legislature which includes the Shura Council and the House of Deputies; and the Bahraini women’s right to vote and run for national office. “In the United Nations’ Development Index which ranks nations on a variety of human development axes, Bahrain is 36 out of the 174 nations included in the survey; ahead of all Arab countries,” he added.

The first round of the FTA negotiations was launched on 26 – 29 January 2004 in Manama, followed by a second round in Washington D.C. on 1 – 5 March. An interim round of technical discussions was held in London on 19 – 22 April. On 27 May 2004, the Minister of Finance & National Economy and the US Trade Representative announced the successful conclusion of the negotiations.

The FTA aims at achieving extensive liberalization across a wide spectrum of trade issues, both in terms of goods and services. The Agreement promotes a liberalized, non-discriminatory trade environment for E-commerce. It also calls for enhanced intellectual property rights protection. Commitments to ensure transparency and efficiency in customs administration are included. Specific rules of origin are laid out to ensure that only Bahrain and U.S. goods benefit from the preferential duty treatment of the Agreement.

The first step in establishing the US-Bahrain FTA was the Treaty on the Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investment, signed between the two countries on 29 September 1999. Next came signature of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on 18 June 2002.

Attending the signing ceremony were H.E. Shaikh Khalifa bin Ali Al Khalifa, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the US, Dr. Naser M. Y. Al Belooshi, Bahrain’s Economic Representative to the US, Mr. Khaled Mohammed Kanoo, Chairman, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Yousif A. Humood, Director of Economic Planning, MOFNE, and a number of officials from MOFNE and other ministries and agencies.

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