September 27, 2012 / 3:52 PM / 8 years ago

U.S., Gulf countries agree to strengthen trade ties

WASHINGTON, Sept 27 (Reuters) - The United States on
Thursday said it has signed a framework agreement with Saudi
Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to
explore ways to boost trade and investment with the oil-rich
   The GCC also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the
United Arab Emirates. Total two-way trade between the United
States and the GCC totaled almost $100 billion last year, with
the U.S. running about a $24 billion trade deficit.
    "This important trade and investment agreement will help to
grow and strengthen our economic ties with the Gulf Cooperation
Council, which is a key strategic U.S. partner in the Middle
East and North Africa region," U.S. Trade Representative Ron
Kirk said in a statement.
    U.S. goods exports to the GCC totaled nearly $38 billion in
2011, led by vehicles, machinery, aircraft, electrical
machinery, and optical and medical instruments.
    The United States imported nearly $62 billion of oil,
aluminum, fertilizers, organic chemicals and other goods from
the region last year.
     U.S. foreign direct investment in GCC countries was $23.5
billion in 2010, USTR said.
    The United States already has free trade agreements with
Oman and Bahrain and individual trade and investment framework
agreements with the four other GCC members.
    The new regional forum will complement the existing
bilateral pacts, USTR said.
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