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i24 | 21 November 2022
Israel, Bahrain ‘successfully’ complete first round of free trade talks
by Ariel Oseran
If the deal is reached, it will be Israel’s second such agreement with an Arab state under the Abraham Accords
Israel and Bahrain successfully completed the first round of talks on a free trade agreement, Israeli Economy Ministry said on Monday.
The negotiating teams met last week in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. They discussed “various issues including trade in goods, regulation and standardization, customs, trade in services, government procurement, e-commerce and the protection of intellectual property rights,” the ministry’s statement said.
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The “rapid progress in the negotiations” shows the “great importance that both sides attach to this agreement,” the statement added.
If the deal is reached, it will be Israel’s second such agreement with an Arab state in the last two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords negotiated by the U.S. A similar deal was sealed with the United Arab Emirates in May.
“The full potential of trade between all the countries of the Abraham Accords has not yet been realized. Together with our Bahraini colleagues, we are working to establish an agreement that will enable significant expansion of trade relations between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain, and will create new and diverse possibilities for both sides,” Ohad Cohen, head of the Israeli negotiation team said.
The next round of talks is scheduled for December. It is expected to be held in Israel. In 2021, the volume of Israeli exports to Bahrain reached $3.8 million, while imports from the Gulf country to the Jewish state amounted to $3.5 million.
Negotiations kicked off in mid-September, with a meeting between Israeli Economy Minister Orna Barbivai and her Bahraini counterpart Zayed Alzayani in Manama.
"A free trade agreement with Bahrain as part of strengthening broader regional cooperation will strengthen economic relations between the countries, increase the scope of investments, remove trade barriers and create opportunities for entrepreneurs and companies in Israel and Bahrain," Barbivai said.
While the scope of Bahrain’s trade ties with Israel is only a small fraction of what Israel has with the UAE, Jerusalem’s relations with Manama have been a lot warmer and closer than with Abu Dhabi.
A clear example to that is the security cooperation agreement Israel and Bahrain signed back in February, a year after signing the Abraham Accords. This was the first such pact Israel had reached with one of its new allies in the Gulf.
Nevertheless, whether economic or security, Israel is continuing to bolster its ties with the Gulf.