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United States-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

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Location: Washington, DC


UNITED STATES-BAHRAIN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT -- (House of Representatives - December 07, 2005)

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for yielding, and for his hard work on this. Also I want to start off, Mr. Speaker, by thanking the Democrats on the committee for working so hard and diligently with us.

This is a bipartisan bill. This is a bipartisan trade agreement. We will see votes from a lot of Democrats and a lot of Republicans when this comes to a vote. Why is that? Mr. Speaker, I think this is a very important step in the right direction for our country. This is a very important precedent-making event. What we are accomplishing here is the first trade agreement in this region since the 9/11 Commission published their findings, since we launched the Middle East Free Trade Area Initiative, since 9/11.

Now, let us just say it is controversial what our country is doing in Iraq. I think it is safe to say that. That is a part of our war on terror, has controversy. Well, what are we trying to accomplish there? We believe that freedom and democracy are the best ultimate tools in the war on terrorism. We believe that our children and grandchildren will be more safe and secure here in America and around the world, if other people are free, if other people have the ability to determine their own destiny and their own futures.

What does this have to do with that? A trade agreement with the United States with these countries, with Bahrain, in particular, helps secure that future. By seeing the leadership of Bahrain, the first country in the Gulf to do this, gravitating and taking the leadership, for rule of law, transparency in its legislature, changing its government to a constitutional monarchy, having a directly representative parliament, giving women the right to vote, given women elected positions in government, giving woman elected positions in the ministry, in the cabinet level, having the rule of law, having transparency, all of those things are the necessary and key foundations and building blocks to freedom and democracy.

That is ultimately how we win against the war on terrorism. This is the way we do it on a bipartisan basis. This is the opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to go forward with one voice, one face, one message as Americans going overseas, going forward confidently to win the war on terror and help encourage the spread of freedom and democracy. That is why this is an important trade agreement.

Is Bahrain significant from an economic value? It is a small country relative to other economic trade partners. Is this trade agreement in and of itself a good deal for us? Absolutely. Zero tariffs on manufactured goods. Zero tariffs on our agricultural goods. Fair trade rules. This agreement improves labor standards.

The Bahrainees have already shown leadership in their region in this area. In 2000, they passed a very sweeping labor reform law. They have since committed to passing even more sweeping labor reform laws. So we are already seeing tremendous progress being made. This is a country, Mr. Speaker, that has really shown leadership in this region against the grain, against pressure from their neighbors across the causeway in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf.

This is a country that has been our friend and ally for over 100 years, that has hosted our 5th Fleet naval base from which we do all of our Naval operations in the Iraqi theatre, in the Afghani theatre, come from Bahrain, from our 5th Fleet.

This is a country that has stood with the United States through thick and then in helping us stop money laundering for terrorists, in helping us with our military, in standing with us for democracy in the Middle East. It is an important ally. It is an ally that has done a lot, that has shown leadership, that has risked a lot to stand with us for democracy and freedom, that is gravitating towards these kinds of reforms.

The vision that this trade agreement represents, Mr. Speaker, is a vision of spreading trade, free markets, capitalism and democracy and freedom throughout the greater Middle East. This is the road map to the future of the Middle East.

And that is why it is so important. This is a bipartisan movement. That is why I just want to say one more time how thankful I am to the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Rangel) for working very hard to meet this agreement, and the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin) as well, for working hard to meet this agreement so that we can stand here today as Republicans and Democrats in favor of this very important trade agreement.

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, we have heard throughout this debate a lot of reference to the trade deficit. I think it is important to look at that. When you look at our Nation's trade deficit, we enjoy a very large surplus in services, and our trade deficit comes from a trade deficit in manufactured goods.

Mr. Speaker, according to the latest statistics, 94 percent of our trade deficit comes from countries we do not have a free trade agreement with. A free trade agreement like this agreement helps us get fair trade rule so we can trade honestly with each other; and, yes, get an advantage so we can create more jobs, send more exports, and have better paying jobs here at home. I will just repeat that statistic one more time: 94 percent of our manufactured good trade deficit comes from countries we do not have a trade agreement with.

But it is more than that. Trade combines people. What is important about this agreement is beyond the economic value which is very substantial. It is about the human value.

You see, Mr. Speaker, we have good relations between our governments. Our 5th Fleet is located in Bahrain. We have great relations between our diplomats and the Bahrainees, between our President and the emir.

What this agreement proposes to do is put American people in contact with Bahrainee people, put Americans in contact with Muslims, put Americans in contact with Arabs in the Gulf so we can better understand each other. Trade is about individuals combining to join in mutually beneficial behavior and activity and business arrangements, to help their families and help create jobs and grow their economies.

But more than that, trade will help our people better understand the people we do not understand as well. We need a better understanding of people in the Arab world. We need a better understanding of Muslims. This is important because of the climate we face in the world. That is why it is important that we pass this agreement so that the American people can join and bond in friendship with the Bahrainee people in the Gulf Coast in the Middle East so we can have a better understanding of each other. As we understand each other better, we can better secure peace and security for our children.

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