By John S. McClenahen Negotiation for a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and the Gulf state of Bahrain, expected to begin early in 2004, could benefit U.S. manufacturers of consumer and industrial products as well as advance the Bush Administration's goal of creating a free-trade area in the Middle East by 2013. U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick announced the intention to negotiate a U.S.-Bahrain free-trade pact on May 21. "The United States must move forward with those nations in the Middle East that are prepared to open their markets and undertake the economic reforms essential for participating in the global economy," says Michael Baroody, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers. "Bahrain is ready and represents an excellent first step." The U.S. exported $419.2 million in goods to Bahrain in 2002, including aircraft, machinery, vehicles, pharmaceuticals, toys, games and sports equipment. Last year the U.S. imported $395.1 million in goods from Bahrain, including apparel and clothing accessories, aluminum, fertilizer, organic chemicals, mineral fuels and oils, plastics and electrical machinery. In the Middle East, the U.S. already has free-trade agreements with Israel and Jordan, and is seeking to complete negotiations with Morocco by the end of this year.