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Building business on a firm friendship

Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and President George Bush met for talks in July.

RECENT history has created a unique relationship between Kuwait and the United States. Kuwaitis will never forget that when Saddam Hussein sent his tanks rolling across the border and occupied the country, it was a U.S.-led international coalition that drove the invaders back in the 1991 Gulf War.

Since then, the strategic partnership between the two nations has strengthened. A ten-year defense pact was signed in 1991 and renewed for a further ten years in 2001. U.S. military forces have maintained an approved security presence in the country since its liberation.

Kuwait has been a staunch supporter of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and played a vital role in Operation Iraqi Freedom by allowing its territory to be used by coalition forces. The emirate’s support of the new Iraqi government contributes towards the achievement of stability in the region, and, because of its strategic position, it is serving as a gateway to the reconstruction of the country.

The emirate is an important partner in the U.S. campaign against terror, and has been praised for its cooperation against Al-Qaeda and the financing of international terrorism.

Deal signed last year is first move towards a free trade agreement

Kuwait was the first member state in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to sign the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, launched by NATO in 2004 to offer security cooperation to Middle-East countries.

President George W. Bush describes the emirate as a steady and strong friend of the United States, and last year designated it a Major Non-NATO Ally.

Ways of boosting bilateral relations further, particularly in the areas of economic and commercial cooperation, were discussed when Kuwait’s Prime Minister visited Washington in July. Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah characterized his talks with President Bush as fruitful and constructive. For his part, Mr. Bush welcomed the historic decision by the Kuwaiti parliament to give
voting rights to women.

Last year, Kuwait signed a Trade and Investment Frame-work Agreement (TIFA) with the United States, which is seen as a first step toward a free trade agreement. The United States backs economic integration in the region, and by 2013 hopes to create a free trade area covering the entire Middle East. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have already been signed with Jordan, Morocco, and Bahrain.

Richard LeBaron, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, says, “By 2013, we hope to develop a critical mass of FTAs in the Middle East and North Africa that can be woven into a Middle East Free Trade Area.

“If all the countries in this region were combined into one trading area, it would be the equivalent of our seventh largest trading partner.”

The United States is Kuwait’s largest supplier of goods and services. U.S. exports to the emirate range from iron, steel, drilling and oil field equipment, and chemicals to cars, telecommunications technologies, and consumer goods.
Since its liberation, the emirate has upgraded its defense capability by purchasing billions of dollars worth of U.S. weapons, military systems, and aircraft.

The United States buys crude oil, petroleum products, and chemical fertilizer from Kuwait. The 260,000 barrels per day of Kuwait crude that it imports represents approximately 3% of U.S. oil imports.