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Cablegate: Commerce Minister Calls Fta a Turning Point

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS MANAMA 001465

SIPDIS

COMMERCE FOR THOFFMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ECON PGOV ETRD BA
SUBJECT: COMMERCE MINISTER CALLS FTA A TURNING POINT


-------------------------
FTA Will Expand Relations
-------------------------

1. The Ambassador met with Minister of Commerce Ali Bin
Saleh Al Saleh on September 15 to discuss the U.S.-Bahrain
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the potential for increased
cooperation between U.S. and Bahraini businesses. Al Saleh
noted that this year had been a "turning point" in the
U.S.-Bahrain bilateral relationship, particularly in economic
and commercial relations. The Ambassador pointed to the
rapid negotiation of an FTA as evidence of that good
relationship as well as the non-controversial nature of
concluding the agreement with Bahrain.

----------------------------
Bahrain: Gateway to the Gulf
----------------------------

2. The Ambassador called the FTA a model for others in the
Gulf and an important launching point for U.S. efforts to
promote open markets in the region. Al Saleh said the FTA
fit in well with Bahrain,s own policy of promoting regional
free trade and becoming the "Gateway to the Gulf." He added
that the GOB is also very aware that ensuring public security
and stability are key to realizing its economic development
goals.

----------------------------------
Bahraini Expectations High for FTA
----------------------------------

3. Al Saleh pointed out the high expectations of the public
as FTA implementation draws near. He acknowledged the need
to redouble GOB efforts to explain to Bahraini business how
they might benefit from the FTA and asked for close
cooperation with the U.S. The Ambassador called FTA
implementation a major focus of the USG and promised that the
U.S. Embassy would work closely with the GOB and
organizations like the newly founded American Chamber of
Commerce to highlight the FTA. He added that the FTA is a
unique opportunity to spotlight doing business with Bahrain,
but the window of opportunity to make an impact is finite.
Without real opportunities for U.S. business in Bahrain, the
impact of the FTA will remain symbolic. The USG is now
focusing its efforts on ensuring the FTA passes Congress
before the election. He suggested that the GOB work closely
with parliament to ensure ratification.
MONROE

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