OP-ED By Margaret Nardi, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires to the Kingdom of Bahrain
Each year, we are delighted to celebrate Discover America Week to highlight the contributions of American goods, services, and products to our lives. This year’s Discover America Week is special because it marks the 15th anniversary of the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the cornerstone of the economic ties binding our two nations. Kicking off on October 3, Discover America Week will provide an opportunity for the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain, the American Chamber of Commerce, and our friends and partners in Bahrain to highlight two-way economic benefits and to reinforce our strong and deepening partnerships across sectors.
Since coming into force in 2006, the Free Trade Agreement has tripled two-way trade and has created new investment opportunities in both the United States and Bahrain. Trade between our two countries reached $3 billion in 2018, the highest reported figure in the FTA’s history, following the sale of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft to support Gulf Air’s preparations to resume direct flights to the United States. Although the pandemic-induced global economic downturn reduced bilateral trade to $1.5 billion in 2020, total U.S.-Bahrain trade has reached nearly $1 billion for the first half of 2021. For the past 15 years, the FTA has consistently generated annual bilateral trade volumes exceeding $1 billion.
The FTA also facilitates bilateral investment between Bahrain and the United States. According to the latest U.S. Department of Commerce statistics from 2020, the United States has invested over $570 million in Bahrain., more than triple the $161 million balance of foreign direct investment in 2016. Similarly, Bahrain has invested $365 million in the United States, up from $190 million in 2018. Bahrain’s outward investment flow to the United States supports over 8,600 American jobs in the communications, information technology, and heavy metals industries.
Through our Discover America Week events, we will have a chance to explore the diversity of American franchises and iconic brands, as well as discover new opportunities in the tourism, health, energy, and automobile sectors that are creating jobs and promoting economic prosperity for Bahrain’s citizens and its residents.
Discover America Week 2021 will also promote the opening of new American franchises in Bahrain’s thriving hospitality sector, including Chili’s and Papa John’s, which are launching new stores in Manama, and the Hilton, which is opening a new hotel in Bahrain Bay. All three businesses showcase iconic American brands that are hiring staff and contributing to Bahrain’s economic success and its expanding tourism sector.
In partnership with the Bahrain Sustainable Energy Authority, the U.S. Embassy will host a virtual presentation on emerging investment opportunities in solar, wind, and waste-to-energy projects. The U.S. Embassy will also partner with a local vehicle repair shop to highlight the quality of American auto part imports and will emphasize critical industry standards for Bahrain’s auto parts aftermarket.
To further expand bilateral ties under the Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. Embassy will launch virtual information sessions on the process for obtaining non-immigrant visitor and business visas, as well a separate webinar on educational opportunities and how to pursue study in the United States.
Finally, the U.S. Embassy, in collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce, will present a virtual webinar to explain Bahrain’s new health system, Sehati, and explore investment opportunities for U.S. insurance providers. We hope you will join us to learn more about the rich diversity of US contributions to Bahrain during Discover America Week from October 3 to 7, 2021. Though COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on mass gatherings have been eased, to remain safe, most of our public programming will be virtual, and will be readily accessible via the U.S. Embassy’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts.