U.S., Bahrain Reach Free-Trade Pact

By Agence France-Presse The United States and Bahrain struck a free-trade agreement (FTA) May 27 after four months of negotiations, prompting cheers from business leaders. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Bahrain Finance and Economy Minister Abdullah Seif announced the deal, which must still be approved by the U.S. Congress. "This free-trade agreement provides the essential tools that will fortify our two nations' political, economic, cultural and strategic relationships," Seif said in a statement. Seif said the deal would help the United States in its effort to create a free-trade zone in the Gulf region. The two sides decided to pursue a free-trade agreement one year ago. Negotiations began on Jan. 26 this year. "This agreement with longtime U.S. ally Bahrain will open many doors to the entire Middle East region," said U.S.-Bahrain FTA Coalition member William Rice. According to the business lobby group, the deal would provide duty-free access to all trade in non-textiles industrial goods, all of Bahrain's agricultural exports and 98% of U.S. agricultural exports. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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