SECRETARY BLINKEN: Crown Prince Salman, Your Royal Highness, welcome back to the State Department, to Washington, a city that I know you know very well from your student days just up the road at American University. We’ve had the chance to discuss that before. Things have changed a little bit on campus, but we’re delighted to have you back in Washington.
And to the National Security Advisor Sheikh Nasser, to my friend the Foreign Minister Al-Zayani, to the entire delegation from Bahrain: Welcome, welcome, welcome.
This moment reflects a great deal of hard work from our teams, and I want to applaud as well all of my colleagues on the American side for the work that they’ve put into this and, I believe, helps us define the very promising work ahead. As both a major non-NATO ally and a major security partner, Bahrain is already one of the United States’ longest-standing and closest partners in the Middle East. In today’s meeting, we’ll discuss how to deepen our strategic partnership, including through the framework that brings us here today: the Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement.
This agreement deepens our cooperation in three very important ways.
First, it expands our security and defense collaboration. For more than 25 years, of course, Bahrain has hosted the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and we stand shoulder to shoulder in our mission to secure critical shipping lanes that sustain the entire global economy. This agreement will strengthen coordination between our armed forces and the integration of our intelligence capacities, allowing us to even better deter and respond to threats as they arise.
Second, it enhances our economic relationship. Since 2006, our free trade agreement has more than tripled trade and investment to about $3 billion a year. Today’s agreement builds on this, in part by identifying new investment opportunities for the private sector partners in the United States.
And third, at a moment when technology holds so much potential to better our lives, this agreement advances scientific and technical cooperation between our countries, including through increased information sharing and exchanges between our people. And already we’re collaborating in areas like health security and digital technology. I think we’ll see with today’s signing all of this become elevated. We’ll start the process of working together on renewable energy, on carbon capture technologies, and other cutting-edge endeavors.
This agreement is also the first binding U.S. international agreement of its kind to promote cooperation in developing and deploying trusted technologies, which are vital to protecting our critical systems and our peoples’ privacy – all of this from bad actors.
But I think when you step back, at the heart of the agreement is a shared goal: working together to build a region that is more secure, that’s more prosperous, and that’s more connected to the world economy. We’re looking forward to using this agreement as a framework for additional countries that may wish to join us in strengthening regional stability, economic cooperation, and technological innovation.
In our meeting, Your Royal Highness, I also very much look forward to discussing ways to continue advancing regional integration – something that Bahrain has been in the forefront of doing. This is the third anniversary, this week, of the Abraham Accords through which Bahrain became one of the first countries to normalize relations with Israel. Bahrain has continued its leadership through the Negev Forum. The foreign minister and I were participants in its first – in its first meeting. Our two countries are co-leading efforts in the forum to strengthen cooperation on regional security and health, another very important item on our agenda today.
We’ll also continue our dialogue on the full range of human rights issues which are a core pillar of the United States foreign policy. That includes areas like combating trafficking in persons, where Bahrain continues to make important headway. It also includes ensuring that fundamental freedoms are protected, which contributes to Bahrain’s progress.
For more than 130 years now, Bahrain and the United States have forged a partnership that has evolved to meet the challenging needs of our people and the changing needs of our people, from Americans building a school and a hospital in Manama in the early 20th century, to the start of our diplomatic relations more than five decades ago, to our troops serving side by side in Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s.
Today’s agreement that we’re about to sign builds on that very proud and important history. It ensures that this vital relationship between our countries will continue to do what it needs to do, which is deliver for our people and, I believe, help build a more positive future for people throughout the region.
So with that, again, it’s wonderful to have you here. Let me turn this over to you.
CROWN PRINCE AL KHALIFA: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor and a privilege to be standing in front of you on this historic day. I have witnessed the closeness of our two countries and I have understood through deed and word what it has taken to get us to this point.
Long ago, over 130 years ago, a group of missionaries came and established the first – we could call it hospital, but I think it was really just a – it was a small little health center that did become, in fact, a hospital in 1903. We were the first forward operating base for the U.S. Navy in the Middle East, in the Kingdom of Bahrain – 1948, I believe. We have consistently been the first to promulgate the free trade agreement that we did, as the first GCC country to sign it, and we are the first country to create the U.S. trade zone that we believe is going to be the foundation of something that we are both so passionately working towards.
You articulated exactly what this agreement is about. It is of, I believe, a sense of imperativeness, a need. The world today is faced by a number of choices, people are faced by a number of choices: either the rise of authoritarianism or the growth of libertarianism. And the international rules-based order that manifested itself in the early 19th century was the foundation for the freedom of trade, of the movement of ideas, of people all over the world, and we’re all beneficiaries of that. And those common values – the values of a Bedouin in the desert of Arabia who could pick up his house and move if he didn’t like the level of rainfall he had or something – is essentially the freedom to go where one wants to go, to live how one wants to live, and to build a future for one’s children that is hopefully brighter than the one that they lived.
This agreement, by focusing not only on security and defense, which is essential, but also on economy – on the economy, on people, and on technology, will be the foundation for a new global architecture, I believe – as it’s open-ended, it’s an open – it’s an open agreement; we will be welcoming more members, hopefully – that I think is as significant as the decisions that were taken after many of the global upheavals historically.
So we are setting sail confidently. We are reaffirming our direction. And I couldn’t be more honored on behalf of his majesty to be here to sign this agreement on this day with you in Washington, D.C. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Today the United States and the Kingdom of Bahrain are signing the Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement. This agreement will enhance cooperation across a wide range of areas, from defense and security to emerging technology, trade, and investment. It marks the latest development in the United States’ enduring commitment to Bahrain and the region in support of peace.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we have a pen that doesn’t want to cooperate, so I’m going to switch. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: And that concludes our signing ceremony.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: One more second. One more.
CROWN PRINCE AL KHALIFA: We’ve got one more.
CROWN PRINCE AL KHALIFA: Everything is in quadruple.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: You’re a lot faster than I am.
(The agreement was signed.)
CROWN PRINCE AL KHALIFA: Perfect.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Now it’s done. (Applause.) Well done, everyone. Thank you.