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United States and Qatar Sign Trade and Investment Framework Agreement

9th TIFA with Middle Eastern Country

WASHINGTON - U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Qatar Minister of Economy and Commerce Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Jassim al-Thani today signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), providing a forum for the United States and Qatar to examine ways to expand bilateral trade and investment. This is the ninth TIFA the United States has signed with a Middle Eastern country.

"American consumers and businesses benefit from a closer trading relationship with Qatar," said Zoellick. "Qatar played a valuable role in hosting and facilitating the launch of the Doha negotiations, the global trade negotiations to open markets and promote economic development. Furthermore, Qatar has been a steadfast friend of the United States in the war against terrorism, and I am pleased that we are working to expand our relationship on the economic front."

"The President is committed to helping Middle Eastern countries reform and open their societies through his Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) initiative," added Zoellick. "As they implement these changes, we will deepen our economic ties with them through various avenues such as today's Trade and Investment Framework Agreement."

The TIFA creates a Joint Council that will consider a wide range of commercial issues and sets out basic principles underlying the two nations' trade and investment relationship. The council will establish a permanent dialogue with the expectation of expanding trade and investment between the United States and the Qatar with the goal of resolving trade issues and deepening the bilateral trade relationship. The United States uses TIFA's to strengthen bilateral trade and support economic reform through regular senior-level discussions on commercial and economic issues. TIFAs have served as a springboard for FTA negotiations with Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco.

In 2003, the United States exported $408 million worth of goods to the Qatar, a 200% increase from a decade ago, including machinery, aircraft, vehicles, optical and medical instruments. The United States imported $331 million worth of goods from Qatar in the same year, including mineral fuel and fertilizers.

Background

In May 2003, the President proposed a plan of graduated steps for Middle Eastern nations to increase trade and investment with the United States and others in the world economy. The first step is to work closely with peaceful nations that want to become members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in order to expedite their accession. As these countries implement domestic reform agendas, institute the rule of law, protect property rights (including intellectual property), and create a foundation for openness and economic growth, the United States will take a series of graduated steps with countries in the region tailored to their level of development. The U.S. will expand and deepen economic ties through Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs), Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), and comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), and will enhance the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program for eligible countries.

Today's TIFA with Qatar is the ninth with a Middle East country. The others are: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen. The United States has an FTA with Jordan, recently completed the negotiations with Morocco (ratification pending) and is negotiating with Bahrain.

In recent months, the U.S. completed free trade agreements with six Central American countries and with Australia. New and pending FTA's, taken together, constitute America's third largest export market and the sixth largest in the world (these include the above plus: Singapore, Chile, Panama, Thailand, SACU and the four Andean countries).

In addition to the bilateral agreements, the United States is moving forward with regional trade relationships, especially with the Free Trade of the Americas, and globally through the Doha Development Agenda. In a January 2004 letter to the 146 WTO members, Zoellick urged Members to revive the global trade talks and conducted an around the world trip February 11-20, visiting 9 cities for strategic consultations. These cities were Tokyo (Japan); Beijing (China); Singapore, Islamabad (Pakistan); New Delhi (India); Cape Town (South Africa); Mombasa(Kenya); Geneva (WTO headquarters) and Paris (meetings with EU Trade Commissioner Lamy).

Immediately following that trip, Zoellick traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica for meetings February 23-24 with ministers from the Cairns Group of agriculture exporting countries to discuss liberalizing trade in agriculture within ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) trade negotiations.