May 22,2003

McCain and Baucus Introduce Middle East Trade Initiative

Senators Working Together to Provide Opportunities Abroad, Strengthen Economies

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and John McCain (RAriz.)joined together today to introduce legislation that will create a trade preference program forthe countries of the Middle East.

The trade program would be modeled on successful existing trade programs for sub-SaharanAfrica and the Andean region and could take effect immediately. Under the program, countries thatmeet certain criteria, such as having a market-based economy, supporting the U.S. war on terrorism,and undertaking fundamental reforms would be able to export certain goods to the United Statestariff free.

"Free trade is a powerful tool for opening up closed societies, if leaders in the greaterMiddle East are willing to make necessary and overdue political and economic reforms," McCainsaid. "It's past time for nations of the Middle East to join the global economy, and for rulers to leadincreasingly restive populations in the direction of democracy and free markets."

“In the aftermath of the conflict in Iraq, it is more important than ever that the U.S. looksfor opportunities to build bridges and help strengthen the economies of the Middle East," Baucussaid. "I'm pleased to be working with Senator McCain to move forward this important legislationthat will be a building block for increased trade now and in the years to come."

The trade preference legislation introduced today is intended to help diversify and improvethe economies of the Middle East and provide jobs for the rapidly growing population in thosecountries. In addition, Baucus added that increased trade will also provide jobs and opportunities forAmerican workers and businesses.

"Not only will we extend our trust and goodwill by opening our markets, but by helping tostrengthen economies throughout the Middle East, we will also increase the number of people whocan afford to purchase American products and services," Baucus said. "That means increasedexport opportunities for American businesses and more jobs for American farmers and workers."

"Our legislation also calls on the countries of the region to fully cooperate in the war onterrorism, observe international human rights standards, move decisively towards democracy, andsupport a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," McCain said. "Reform in the Araband Muslim worlds requires not just greater trade but accelerated political and economicliberalization, including respect for fundamental human freedom."

Earlier this month, President Bush announced a long-term plan to create a U.S.-Middle Eastfree trade area by 2013.

Baucus and McCain today stated their approval of the President's trade proposal, butemphad the need to put in place a more immediate trade preference program, which will helpthose countries make the significant economic reforms that can lead to free trade agreements.