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FTA ’followed in letter and spirit’

Gulf Daily News | 28 May 2006

FTA ’followed in letter and spirit’

THE US government has confirmed that Bahrain is no longer part of an Arab boycott of Israeli products in line with its commitment to the bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Media reports in Israel claimed Foreign Affairs Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said during an address to parliament earlier this month that Bahrain would continue to comply with the boycott as long as the Arab League instructed it to do so.

But a representative at the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has told the US media the allegations were untrue.

The influential body, part of the executive branch of the government, is responsible for US international trade policy at bilateral and multilateral levels.

"The assertion that the Bahrain boycott office is still open is simply not true," a USTR source, who did not wish to be identified, told Globes Online.

"Our embassy has confirmed this. The office is closed. The sign on the building has been removed, its telephones disconnected and the office’s only employee has been transferred to another office.

"I cannot comment about quotes by Bahraini ministers, but it’s not clear to us that the minister was quoted correctly.

"Our impression is that Bahrain is sticking to both the letter and spirit of its commitment. Its government has undertaken to do this."

Last month, Democrat Congressman Benjamin Cardin’s chief-of-staff told the GDN any moves to reverse Bahrain’s commitment to ending the boycott would be a "serious issue".

He made the comments after asking President George Bush’s administration to investigate reports in the Israeli Press alleging the Israel-Boycott office in Bahrain was still open, despite the country already declaring it closed.

The US government clause stated Bahrain could not continue its official boycott of Israeli products as part of the FTA between the two countries.

 source: Gulf Daily News