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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 February 2021

US to establish a free trade zone in Bahrain

The free zone will be promoted as a regional centre for trade, manufacturing, logistics and distribution between US companies based in Bahrain and the rest of the GCC

A view of Bahrain’s financial district in the capital city of Manama. Reuters
A view of Bahrain’s financial district in the capital city of Manama. Reuters

The US will establish a free trade zone (USTZ) in the kingdom of Bahrain to boost bilateral relations between the two countries.

Wilbur Ross, the US secretary of commerce, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bahrain’s minister of industry, commerce, and tourism Zayed Alzayani on Wednesday, according to a Bahrain government statement.

“The favourable economic prospects in our region provides the ideal opportunity to US companies to further expand their business from USTZ,” Mr Alzayani, said. “The MoU will open new doors to strengthen the mutual relationships between the two markets based on the advantages of the Bahrain-US Free Trade Agreement”.

The US and Bahrain have strong trade and diplomatic relations. Bilateral merchandise trade between the two countries stood at $2.45bn in 2019, with an additional $1.5bn of trade in services. The US-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 2006.

“The kingdom of Bahrain has been, and continues to be, an important strategic and trade partner of the United States, maintaining stability and ensuring the free flow of commerce in the Gulf,” Mr Ross said. “The Department of Commerce remains committed to our deep partnership with the kingdom.”

The two countries will promote the free zone as a regional centre for trade, manufacturing, logistics, and distribution between US companies in Bahrain and the rest of the GCC, the statement said.

The zone will also allow US companies in Bahrain to operate goods exchange activities and will ease export operations through Khalifa Bin Salman Port, Bahrain International Airport and the King Fahd Causeway as well as any future ports in the kingdom, the statement said. King Fahd Causeway connects Bahrain with Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain is aiming to strengthen ties with different countries. Last year, the country normalised relations with Israel after signing the US-brokered Abraham Accord. It also opened its airspace to aircraft from Qatar on Monday after the kingdom, along with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, restored ties with Doha at a GCC summit in Al Ula earlier this month.

The US established diplomatic relations with Bahrain in 1971 and designated it a major Non-Nato Ally in 2002. Bahrain is also home to US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols the seas of the Middle East and Central Asia for peace keeping operations.

Published: January 14, 2021 12:05 PM

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