- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2006

Gateway to the Gulf

The ambassador from Bahrain is flush with excitement, as a free-trade agreement with the United States takes effect today opening a new level of business that promises better U.S. access to the entire Middle East market.

“Implementation of the free-trade agreement is the start of an exciting, new chapter in the long relationship between the kingdom of Bahrain and the United States,” said Ambassador Naser al-Belooshi.

“Bahrain is the ‘Gateway to the Gulf,’ and this agreement will provide economic opportunities for both countries and the Gulf region at large.”

The trade pact is the first between the United States and a Persian Gulf nation. It removes tariffs on 100 percent of consumer and industrial products produced in both countries, while 81 percent of U.S. agricultural exports will be duty-free. Bahrain also has strategic importance to the United States as the home port for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The deal will further benefit the United States by providing access to a region with more than $900 billion in gross domestic product and 1.3 billion people throughout the Arab world because Bahrain is recognized as the “financial capital of the Middle East” and has free-trade agreements with 36 other nations, Mr. al-Belooshi said.

“The U.S.-Bahrain free-trade agreement establishes high standards for competition, transparency, customs and trade facilitation, intellectual property protections, labor laws, environmental policies and further efforts to expand technology and facilitate globalization.”

U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab said the agreement will provide “new opportunities in this growing market” for farmers, manufacturers and service industries.

“The agreement also marks a milestone in strengthening ties and promoting freedom in the Middle East and is an important step in advancing President Bush’s proposal to establish a Middle East free-trade area by 2013,” she added.

Bahrain is recognized as one of the freest economies in the world, according to the annual Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal.

Its latest report said Bahrain “has developed one of the Persian Gulf’s most progressive political systems and most advanced economies.” The report, which ranked the country 25th among 161 nations surveyed, approved of Bahrain’s decision to diversify its economy beyond the oil industry.

Multinational firms are attracted to Bahrain because of its “relatively cosmopolitan outlook, modern economy, favorable regulatory structure and excellent communications and transportation infrastructure,” the report said.

Hunger for justice

The U.S. ambassador to Cambodia is calling on the government to prosecute the aging mass murderers of the Khmer Rouge before more die “quiet, peaceful deaths” like one of the most notorious killers did last month.

“The victims of the genocide deserve justice. The victims of the genocide demand justice. Cambodians deserve to have their hunger for justice satisfied,” Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli told hundreds of village and tribal officials at the ambassador’s residence last week.

Mr. Mussomeli said the death in mid-July of Ta Mok underscores the importance of trying Khmer Rouge leaders before they die of old age. The Khmer Rouge is accused of killing more than 2 million Cambodians in a twisted campaign to create an agrarian paradise.

The ambassador called for a tribunal established by the United Nations to expedite the preparations for trials expected to begin next year.

“The Cambodian genocide stands alone as having failed to bring any of the guilty to justice,” he said, adding that the failure to try the Khmer leaders has a cancerous effect on all of Cambodian life.

“All the flaws of modern Cambodia — from trafficking in persons to the drug trade … to the rampant corruption that pervades all levels of the government — all have been exacerbated by our failure to bring the leaders of the Khmer Rouge to justice,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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