logo logo


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
Photo: US State Department/Wikimedia Commons

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
US, Libya sign trade and investment pact to improve ties
The US and Libya signed a pact Thursday to facilitate trade and investment between the two nations, marking the latest step in the thaw of past hostilities. Corporate groups led by BP and Chevron called the deal "a milestone".
Espionage and property theft triggers call to suspend Israeli access to US market
A major legal filing urges the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to suspend preferential Israeli access to the US market.
New US push for Mideast free trade deal
US officials are engaged in "informal" talks with several GCC countries on possibly concluding a Middle East Free Trade Agreement (Mefta) by 2014, it was revealed yesterday.
Interview: US to push free trade in Middle East
Carlos M. Gutierrez, the influential and persuasive US Secretary of Commerce plans to use a keynote business conference in Jordan to press home the ambition of the Bush administration to see the establishment of a regional US-Middle East Free Trade Area by the deadline of 2013.
Fakhro, Monroe to lead Kingdom at MEFTA meet
The US Ambassador William T Monroe and the Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr Hassan Abdulla Fakhro will lead the Bahraini team at the Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) Trade and Investment Conference in London on March 29.
US trade, investment deals in Middle East advance bolder goals
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.
A US-Middle East trade agreement: A circle of opportunity?
In 2003 President George W Bush proposed a US-Middle East free trade agreement (FTA) to bring “an expanding circle of opportunity” to the region. This new book from the Peterson Institute examines whether an FTA can achieve this goal and the trajectory for a likely agreement.
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).
Free trade agreements: The quiet economic track of US Middle East policy
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration has placed democratization and reform in the Middle East at the top of its agenda. While press reports have focused on political developments, another key component to the American strategy entails encouraging economic growth, modernization, and liberalization throughout the region.