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US-Israel trade pact must be updated: senator

AFP | WASHINGTON, April 15 2010

US-Israel trade pact must be updated: senator

The United States and Israel must modernize their 1985 free trade agreement to better reflect high-tech commerce between the staunch allies, a US senator urged Thursday.

"The time is right, we should take a look at modernizing the free trade agreement," said Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, who underlined that just 14 percent of US imports from Israel are covered by the accord as it stands.

Cardin, who described both economies as "engines for innovation and ingenuity," pointed to sharp growth in bilateral trade in services and commerce over the Internet since the agreement was signed.

"The US has no closer ally and a modern (agreement) makes sense to strengthen the relationship between our two countries. We need to come up with strategies on how to move forward on a new framework," he said.

The top trade official at the Israeli embassy in Washington, Ohad Cohen, told AFP that Israel was "very much in favor" of modernizing the rules that govern bilateral trade to reflect changes since 1985.

Cohen, who attended Cardin’s speech, suggested the partners enact "new side agreements" on specific trade issues like services or labor and environment standards rather than scrap the treaty entirely.

"This agreement is not broken, not at all," said Cohen, so "to open the old agreement is maybe not the right way."

 source: AFP