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

No US-ME free trade talks this year but with Egypt
According to US Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East Shaun Donnelly, the only Arab country under consideration for beginning FTA talks before the summer of 2007 is Egypt.
US ’Big Brother’ attitude in FTAs draws criticism
Arabs attending a conference in Bahrain blasted yesterday Washington’s "Big Brother" attitude in bilateral Free Trade Agreements, saying they are political tools to serve US interests rather than enhance economic prosperity in the region.
U.S. encourages trade expansion with Arab World
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has engaged in intensive negotiations with a number of Arab countries to develop bilateral trade agreements which it intends to knit together into a Middle East Free Trade Area by 2013.
Mideast building trade ties with US
The Bush administration’s plan: to negotiate a series of trade agreements that would eventually fuse one of the world’s most economically and politically unstable regions into a giant free-trade zone.
Middle East Free Trade Area: progress report
Since the Bush Administration first announced its trade initiative, it has made substantial progress in working with MEFTA entities to develop TIFAs, BITs, and FTAs.
US business pushing for Middle East FTA
Major US corporations are joining forces to lobby for a US-Middle East Free Trade Agreement (MEFTA) that President George W Bush proposed in 2003.
US economic and trade policy in the Middle East
Excerpts of the testimony by Alan P. Larson, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, presented to the Senate Finance Committee on March 10, 2004.
Operation enduring free trade: War, the Middle East and Bush’s bilateral free trade and investment crusade
While US forces bombed, murdered and maimed their way to "freedom" and "democracy" in Falluja and across Iraq, George Bush reiterated his vision for the Middle East to the US public on April 13th, 2004