July 31,2003

Baucus Comments on U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with Saudi Arabia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) As the Administration today signed a Trade and Investment FrameworkAgreement with Saudi Arabia, Baucus made the following comments on the Agreement and pushed forthe enactment of a trade preference program for countries in the Middle East:

“Today, the United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with theKingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am encouraged that the Administration is seeking closer trading tieswith countries in the Middle East, but I believe we need to be doing more, and faster.That’s why Senator McCain and I introduced the Middle East Trade and Engagement Act of 2003earlier this year. The bill would create a trade preference program for the countries of the MiddleEast. The program is modeled on existing trade preference programs that have successfullystimulated economies, encouraged economic and political reform, and improved U.S. relations insub-Saharan Africa and the Andean region. Clearly the Middle East is no less important to U.S.interests.

Under the program, countries that meet certain criteria, such as having a market-based economy,supporting the U.S. war on terrorism, and undertaking fundamental reforms would be able to exportcertain goods to the United States tariff free. This access to the U.S. market would help diversifyand improve the economies of the Middle East and create jobs for the rapidly growing population inthose countries. In addition, by improving the economies in the Middle East, the program wouldalso increase export opportunities for American businesses and create jobs for American workers.

A network of TIFAs in the Middle East may eventually lead to the Middle East free trade area thatthe Administration envisions, but so would the program embodied in the Baucus-McCain bill. Andthe access that countries would get to the U.S. market under the Baucus-McCain bill would helpthem make the significant economic reforms needed before a free trade agreement can become arealistic option.

In my view, the Baucus-McCain bill is a natural complement to the Administration’s Middle East tradeinitiative. I urge the Administration to work with Senator McCain and me to enact a trade preferenceprogram for the countries in the Middle East. Let’s wo rk together to extend America's trust andgoodwill by opening our markets and helping to strengthen economies throughout the Middle East."