The Growing U.S.-Bahrain Commercial Relationship: Ties that Bind
July 1, 2012 § 1 Comment
Because of its strategic location in the Arabian Gulf, Bahrain has been a hub of trade and commerce for thousands of years. From its legacy as an outpost on the historic trade European-Indian trade route, Bahrain has developed a multicultural, progressive system that ideally suits it to the role of a modern center of global commerce. And while Bahrain serves as a nexus for regional and international trade, it has always had a special commercial relationship with the United States.
Bahrain is a key point of entry into the $1 trillion common market of the Gulf Cooperation Council and has a number of unique advantages for companies looking to do business there. It has no corporate taxes and a business-friendly regulatory structure that makes it easy to do business across a wide variety of sectors.
When a company invests in Bahrain, Bahrain also invests in the company by providing complimentary, skills-based training through Tamkeen, which means empowerment, to ensure the local workforce has the necessary expertise to meet the company’s high expectations for quality.
In addition to these policies, Bahrain has an unrivaled regional advantage in its human capital. The government provides universal, free education through high school and heavily subsidizes higher education. Bahrain also has an abundant supply of highly skilled workers who are trained for the most demanding jobs in the modern economy.
Bahrain and the United States have been close friends for many years. Over 100 years ago, American missionaries came to Bahrain and established both a clinic that would become the American Mission Hospital, and the first church in the Arabian Gulf. Today, the partnership between our two countries is deep and multifaceted. As the home of the American naval presence in the Gulf for over 60 years, Bahrain has long been a cornerstone of regional security and a vital contributor to American national security.
But our relationship is much more than a mutually beneficial security arrangement. Bahrain and the United States also share an enduring commercial relationship that stretches back to 1932, when the Standard Oil Company of California (SOCAL) first discovered oil on the Arab side of the Gulf in Bahrain. Today, many American oil companies, such as Occidental Petroleum, still work in Bahrain. They have also made crucial investments in our downstream refining and petrochemical factories and employ thousands of Bahraini workers.
Bahrain is home to much more than just American oil companies. American banks, like Citigroup, and financial services companies, such as American Express, house their regional headquarters in Bahrain. American food and beverage companies also base their Middle East operations in Bahrain. At a Kraft factory outside of Manama, our capital, Bahrainis produce American cheese singles that are sold in stores across the United States.
The depth of our commercial relationship intensified in 2005, when Bahrain became the first country in the Gulf to sign a free trade agreement with the United States. Through the FTA, Bahrain has drastically increased its exports to the United States and American service companies have scaled their operations in the Kingdom. Today, Bahraini exports to the U.S. total over $500 million and account for nearly four percent of our total exports. The opportunities for both Bahraini and American companies under this agreement are virtually limitless.
The close commercial partnership between Bahrain and the United States is one critical facet of the longstanding alliance between our two countries. As Bahrain continues the path of reform it began over 11 years ago, we look forward to continuing to be the home of many American companies for years to come.