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United States and Lebanon Sign Trade and Investment Framework Agreement

BEIRUT - Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East Shaun Donnelly and Lebanese Minister of Economy and Trade Sami Haddad today signed in Beirut a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which will provide a forum for expanding and strengthening bilateral trade and investment relations between the United States and Lebanon."Today's signing of the TIFA is a part of a comprehensive U.S. effort to support the Lebanese Government" Donnelly said.  "The United States’ mission is to help Lebanon meet the needs of its people and build a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future.  Expanded trade and investment between our two countries can play a vital role in achieving these objectives."Donnelly added, "The TIFA signals the commitment of our two governments to work in a concrete and comprehensive manner to expand bilateral economic ties.  It will be an important means through which the United States can further its efforts to help promote Lebanese economic development, create jobs, and further integrate Lebanon into the global economy.  Today's signing also demonstrates the continued progress being made under the President’s Middle East Free Trade Area Initiative."BACKGROUNDThe President’s MEFTA initiative seeks to promote free trade throughout the region and between the region and the United States. The United States will take a graduated step-by-step approach to creating a free trade area with countries interested and willing to open their economies and liberalize their trade regimes.The United States uses TIFAs to strengthen bilateral trade and support economic reform through regular senior-level discussions on commercial and economic issues.  The U.S.-Lebanon 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 Lebanon and resolving trade issues and deepening the bilateral trade relationship. The TIFA complements other U.S. Government efforts in Lebanon that focus on economic development, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s join project with Citibank to provide loans to families and businesses and the U.S.-Lebanon Partnership Fund led by four American CEOs which will assist with economic growth, job creation, and education.U.S. goods exports to Lebanon in 2005 were valued at $466 million, and included machinery, vehicles, and electrical machinery.  U.S. exports of agricultural products to Lebanon were valued at $63 million, including course grains and tree nuts.  U.S. goods imports from Lebanon in 2005 were valued at $92 million, including precious stones, furniture and bedding, and inorganic chemicals.  U.S. imports of agricultural products from Lebanon in 2005 were valued at $17 million.The United States also has TIFAs with Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.