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Guiterrez holds talks with Kuwaiti officials

Arab Times | Kuwait | 9th July 2006

’Kuwait-US dialogue to be used for achieving Amir’s vision’; Guiterrez holds talks with local officials

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KUWAIT (KUNA): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah retains a "very bold vision" for Kuwait as a regional center for trade and finance, said the US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez Tuesday in Kuwait. Gutierrez, who arrived yesterday in Kuwait, met today with HH the Amir to discuss means to employ the Kuwaiti-American commercial dialogue and Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to achieve HH the Amir’s vision. "There is an infrastructure and there is an environment (in Kuwait) to be able to develop and to achieve the Amir’s vision," he asserted.

He said the US exported $1.9 billion to Kuwait and imported more that $4.0 billion in 2005, noting there has been trade surplus of $2.3 billion in favor of Kuwait. Gutierrez said the US foreign trade policy focused on creating economic growth, noting that "in some instances that requires us to have a trade deficit." He asserted the US wanted to do more business with Kuwait, expressing confidence that there are plenty of business opportunities for the two countries.

Answering a question by Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Gutierrez said the TIFA Council will have a meeting next September to discuss progress and the next steps that would lead toward an eventual Free Trade Agreement (FTA). He lauded the Kuwaiti government’s progress in the TIFA negotiations, especially regarding the area of intellectual property rights. "We have to recognize - first and formost - that the government of Kuwait has made very important progress." Other areas of the TIFA negotiations were clarification on taxation policy and internationalizing standards, so they will be more compatible, he explained.

"The positive aspect is we heard all of these areas are being addressed through legislations and other ways," said Gutierrez. He stressed the significance of getting into an FTA to accelerate trade and attract investments to Kuwait, making it a regional financial center. Currently, the United States have an FTA’s with Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Israel and Oman. The United States is currently holding FTA talks with the United Arab Emirates as part of an effort to expand trade with the region and improve economic conditions.

Despite such efforts though, the US is not expected to embark on any new Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with countries in the Middle East, including Kuwait, in the next year, said US Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East Shaun Donnelly to KUNA in an interview last March. Gutierrez arrived yesterday in Kuwait coming from Baghdad where he met with Iraqi officials and signed an agreement of commercial cooperation. Commerce and Industry Minister Falah Al-Hajiri said Tuesday he also met Gutierrez to revive the commerce agreements concluded between the two countries.

The minister, spoke to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) after conferring with Gutierrez, said he was acting under the instructions of His Highness the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and those of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and that of His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who all want to turn Kuwait into a "high-level financial, economic and trade hub."

The two countries signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in February 2004 as an important step towards establishing a better environment for trade and investments between the United States and Kuwait. According to two US administration press releases at the time, the agreements are described as "an integral part of the President’s initiative to advance economic reforms in the Middle East and create a Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) by 2013."

 source: Arab Times