The US-Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) initiative was an ambitious plan to achieve a single free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and all countries between Western Sahara and Iran. It was launched by George W Bush in 2003. As with the old US-ASEAN FTA plan, the idea is to build the FTA bit by bit from the bottom up. Here, in theory, that means pushing all the countries up a scale of necessary conditions: from WTO membership to a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement leading to a bilateral investment treaty and/or an FTA.

The countries targetted to join MEFTA are: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel (and through Israel, the Palestinian Authority), Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria , Tunisia and Yemen.

Bush’s MEFTA project was clearly driven by US geopolitical and "security" interests and not just economic goals. The MEFTA project directly comes up against the EU’s plans for FTAs with the Mediterranean (EMFTA) and the Gulf states.

However, while the US initially set the deadline for MEFTA at 2013, the Obama Administration seems not to have followed through with it in the way that the previous administration had envisaged.

last update: May 2012


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  • 19-Dec-2013 Libya Herald US-Libyan trade and investment council agreed
    Libya and the US have signed today a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) which establishes an American-Libyan Council for Trade and Investment to regulate all commercial matters between the two countries
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  • 29-Jan-2009 Palestine et Moyen Orient : Combattre le néolibéralisme et le pouvoir des Etats Unis
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  • 27-Feb-2008 Gulf Daily News New US push for Mideast free trade deal
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  • 31-Jan-2008 Al Bawaba Interview: US to push free trade in Middle East
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    Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs) the United States signs with countries in the Middle East and North Africa help realize the vision of a regional free trade area integrated with global economy, US officials say.
  • 6-Dec-2006 Peterson Institute A US-Middle East trade agreement: A circle of opportunity?
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  • 19-Jul-2006 Arab Times Guiterrez holds talks with Kuwaiti officials
    US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez met today with HH the Amir of Kuwait to discuss the Kuwaiti-American commercial dialogue and Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
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    The US Trade Representative’s webpage dedicated to the US-Middle East FTA.