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Israel and Bahrain Looking to Ink Free Trade Pact By End of Year

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

(From left) Ambassador Dr. Sheikh Abdallah bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Ambassador Eitan Na’eh and Ambassador Steve Bondy at a Yom Haatzmaut event in Bahrain on May 26, 2022. Photo: Provided.

Israel and Bahrain hope to sign a free trade agreement by the end of 2022 in a bid to jump-start bilateral business ties two years after the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Bahraini Minister of Industry and Commerce Zayed Alzayani, who is heading an economic delegation visiting Israel this week, said negotiations for a bilateral free trade pact are progressing.

“We are in negotiations and expect to sign by the end of the year,” Alzayani said in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio. Alzayani went on to express disappointment with what he said had only been a moderate volume of bilateral trade.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in Sept. 2020 agreed to formalize their diplomatic ties with Israel under the so-called “Abraham Accords,” brokered with the help of the US.

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Since then, Israel and Bahrain have launched direct flights and have been working on warming defense ties. In November, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), one of the country’s three largest defense contractors, will present its civilian and defense aviation hardware at the Bahrain International Airshow.

In May this year, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) inked a free trade deal – the Jewish state’s first with an Arab country which is expected to lift annual trade between the two economies to more than $10 billion by 2027 from around $1.4 billion as of August.

Now Alzayani is hopeful that a free trade pact will help realize the bilateral business potential between Israel and Bahrain.

“We are at the stage now where we need to activate the Abraham Accords and move it from a government-to-government relationship to a business-to-business relationship and then further on to a people-to-people relationship,” he said.

During the visit, Alzayani together with the Bahrani business delegation met with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and Economy Minister Orna Barbivay. The delegation convened with heads of economic associations in Tel Aviv and signed two memoranda of understanding to help grow exports and forge cooperation between the two countries in the area of fintech.

Asked by Israeli media whether Saudi Arabia will join the Abraham Accords, Alzayani expressed some optimism.

“I think that one of the reasons we committed to the Abraham Accords is to attain the peace we wished for more than seventy years ago,” Alzayani said.

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