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Statement by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman on the signing of legislation to implement the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement

January 11, 2006

"President Bush’s signing into law of the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement is good news for the United States, Bahrain, and our efforts to promote economic opportunity in the Middle East. Soon U.S. farmers, manufacturers and service providers will enjoy new opportunities in this growing market. The agreement also marks a milestone in strengthening ties and promoting freedom in the Middle East.

"The roughly $800 million, two-way trade relationship between the United States and Bahrain is now set to grow. On the first day this agreement goes into effect, 100 percent of the two-way trade in industrial and consumer products will flow without tariffs, and U.S. farmers will find a new market for meats, fruits and vegetables, cereals, and dairy products.

"In addition, this free trade agreement is a state-of-the-art accord in the important and growing service sector. Bahrain has made broad commitments to open its services market wider than has any previous FTA partner, creating important new opportunities for U.S. financial service providers and companies that offer telecommunications, audiovisual, express delivery, distribution, healthcare, architecture and engineering services.

"Congress passed this agreement by the biggest, bipartisan vote of any free-trade agreement since it restored bipartisan trade promotion authority was enacted in 2002. This is an encouraging sign of bipartisan congressional support for trade and reflects the administration’s commitment to work closely with lawmakers of both parties in the approval process.

"The accord is an important step in advancing President Bush’s proposal to establish a Middle East Free Trade Area by 2013. The Bahrain accord is the first one between the United States and a Persian Gulf state and the third with an Arab state, following the implementation of agreements with Jordan and Morocco. Next week, the U.S. will continue its progress with the signing of a free trade agreement with Oman. The promotion of peaceful commerce with the region and among Middle East states will help end the political turmoil and economic stagnation that has for too long limited the opportunities for people in that region."