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Cablegate: Us-Bahrain Business Council Completes Successful

VZCZCXRO4145
RR RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #0504 1550954
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 040954Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6889
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 1328
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 1014
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS MANAMA 000504

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: BEXP ETRD BA ECTRD
SUBJECT: US-BAHRAIN BUSINESS COUNCIL COMPLETES SUCCESSFUL
VISIT TO BAHRAIN


1. (U) A trade delegation of 12 American companies organized
by the newly-established U.S.-Bahrain Business Council
(USBBC) traveled to Bahrain May 29-31 in a successful visit
that included calls on senior Bahrain officials and meetings
with a broad range of the Bahrain business community. The
delegation members were pleased with the warm reception they
received, and the USBBC announced plans to return in November
with an even larger delegation.

2. (U) The USBBC was officially launched on September 14,
2006 at a ceremony held at the Washington headquarters of the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It initially has operated out of
an office at the Chamber, and recently hired an executive
director, Salma Habib, and elected as its chairman James
Godec of Overland Capital Group. Its membership includes
both Bahraini and American companies, and its founding was
clearly linked to the signing of the free trade agreement and
the desire to take advantage of the opportunities offered by
the FTA.

3. (SBU) Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa met the delegation on
May 29 and hailed its efforts to increase trade between the
U.S. and Bahrain. He noted that, despite the difficult
regional environment, there is still strong interest in trade
between the countries of the Gulf and the United States. He
praised the FTA, observing that others in the Gulf had been
critical when Bahrain first signed it but "now they want to
copy us." Minister of Commerce and Industry Hassan Fakhro,
in a separate meeting, welcomed the first American trade
mission to Bahrain since the signing of the FTA, saying that
it highlighted how close the bilateral relationship is. He
stressed that Bahrain would do all it could to maximize the
benefits of the FTA.

4. (SBU) Governor of the Bahrain Central Bank Rashid
Al-Maraj, in his meeting with the delegation, highlighted the
openness of Bahrain's financial sector, pointing out that for
many years Bahrain, in contrast to the rest of the region,
has allowed foreign financial institutions to compete without
restrictions and on an equal footing with domestic banks. He
reaffirmed Bahrain's commitment to continue the dinar peg to
the dollar, believing this commitment provides an important
signal of transparency and stability to the business
community. He also stressed the role the central bank has
played in developing a legal framework for Islamic banking,
which has taken off in Bahrain in recent years.

5. (U) The delegation also met with the Ministers of Finance
and Housing/Public Works and the Chairman of the Economic
Development Board, visited the new Bahrain Industrial
Investment Park and Bahrain Investment Wharf, as well as the
Bahrain Investors Center, and met with a range of business
leaders, including the board of the Bahrain Chamber of
Commerce and Industry.

********************************************* ********
Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/manama/
********************************************* ********
MONROE

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