The American Chamber of Commerce Bahrain (AmCham Bahrain) announced that it hosted a panel discussion on Using the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) at the Arab-Asia Business Partnership Summit recently at the Bahrain Convention and Exhibition Center.
The Panel was moderated by Ms. Zahraa Taher, Managing Director of FinMark Communications and a Board Director for AmCham Bahrain.
The Panelists included: Mr Harinder Lamba, Executive Director of MRS Fashions WLL, Bahrain, a multinational apparel manufacturing company in the business of supplying high quality garments to top brands in US duty free under the FTA; Mr. Chandra Mouli, Senior General Manager, JBF Bahrain an India listed company that will soon be producing polyester film at the BIIP for the US market and that has chosen Bahrain as an investment destination primarily to target the US market; and Mr. Ryaan Sharif, manager of Manufacturing and Logistics in the Business Development Department at the Economic Development Board of Bahrain.
AmCham Bahrain, an independent, private, non-profit, non-political business association, was formed in 2006 to capitalize on the newly implemented Free Trade Agreement between the US and Bahrain with the purpose to help companies take advantage of the new markets and benefits that came from this significant agreement. Its members range from Fortune 500 corporations to small and medium sized companies to not-for-profit organizations to individual business leaders and entrepreneurs.
AmCham Bahrain was pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the FTA at the Arab-Asia Business Partnership Summit and highlight how foreign investor manufacturers can reach the US market and benefit by qualifying for duty-free treatment, if they add 35% domestic content within Bahrain.
The duty free import of US products and supplies benefits manufacturers in Bahrain who are selling the MENA and Asia markets as well.
Mr. Qays Hatim Zu’bi, President AmCham Bahrain explained, “The FTA has certainly boost trade between the US and Bahrain but it is widely felt that the agreement can be better utilized by more companies, especially SMEs. AmCham is committed to raising awareness and helping SMEs better understand the process for using the FTA by connecting them to available resources both in Bahrain and the US.”
Mr. Sharif stated as well, “True to its reputation as a pioneer in the region, Bahrain was the first GCC member state with such an agreement in place with the United States, and is one of only 20 countries worldwide with a FTA currently in effect with the US. The FTA has provided a major push to Bahrain-US trade relations. In 2012, US exports to Bahrain were reported at US$1.2bn, up from US$350.8m in 2005 before the FTA was signed, and imports from Bahrain were up to $701m from $431.6m in 2005.”
The FTA allows Bahraini suppliers of goods and services to be more competitive in the U.S. market. Bahraini manufactured goods which qualify under the Agreement will afford buyers considerable cost savings in terms of import duty. Bahraini exporters also have a competitive advantage in the U.S. over competing third country exporters that do not have the duty benefits provided under the FTA. The FTA also fosters a fair process for government procurement.
Mr. Lamba, Executive Director of MRS Fashions commented, “The unique treatment of apparels under the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, coupled with our efficient manufacturing operations has led our growth. In 2006, we exported four million units of apparel and are today manufacturing and exporting 10 million units per annum. Our customer base has also grown and we can now boast of catering to some of the most well-known and leading brands of the world. Our clients love our product quality and on-time delivery and this is made possible only because of the world class infrastructure and support that Bahrain provides us.”
The Arab-Asia Business Partnership Summit was held between December 9-12, 2014 under the patronage of Minister of Industry and Commerce of Bahrain, and in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Consisting of an exhibition and conference, the Summit aimed to demonstrate the potential of both emerging and existing opportunities for cross-border partnerships throughout the wider Arab-Asia region in a wide range of sectros including healthcare, information and communication technology, tourism / health tourism, fast moving consumer goods, real estate and construction companies.