On the special occasion of Bahrain’s National Day, Gulf Insider takes a closer look at relationships between Bahrain and some of its major trading partners.
First, let me congratulate Bahrain on your National Day. You have much to be proud of.
Bilateral ties between Bahrain and the United States are growing in many ways. Under the Free Trade Agreement, two-way trade grew to over $3 billion in 2018, including nearly $1 billion dollars’ worth of Bahraini exports to the U.S. Over two hundred U.S. firms have invested $647 million in Bahrain-based operations, a 53 percent increase over 2017.
Meanwhile in the field of education over 420 Bahraini students are studying in the U.S., and seven US universities are partnering with Bahraini counterparts to offer an American-style learning experience here in Bahrain. There are also robust academic and professional exchange programs, such as the Fulbright and IVLP programs. Every year Bahrainis participate in these programs and bring their experiences back to Bahrain, further strengthening our connections.
This was a good year for information technology and education. U.S. firm Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched new cloud computing technologies for the region with Bahraini partners, while Rain Financial, located in Bahrain Fintech Bay, became the first cryptocurrency exchange to earn a regulatory license in the Middle East region. AWS established courses on cloud-computing at the University of Bahrain. And the new American University of Bahrain opened its doors to students.
In the traditional area of gas and oil, American firms and Bahraini partners are exploring exciting, newly announced hydrocarbon reserves off the Bahraini coast.
To enhance Bahrain’s security in a volatile neighborhood, His Majesty the Crown Prince traveled to the U.S. and signed an agreement to acquire Patriot Missiles that will defend the country’s air space. Bahrain has also received three new state-of-the-art Coast Guard patrol boats to secure the surrounding waters and will receive three more next year.
In the field of civil aviation, U.S. firms play prominently in Bahrain. Among them, Boeing is supplying national carrier Gulf Air with a fleet of new 787-9 Dreamliner long-haul aircraft. We look forward to the establishment of direct flights between the U.S. and Bahrain in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, GE Aviation plays a role in supporting Gulf Air engines, and Sabre Travel Network is providing reservations systems for Gulf Air and other global carriers.
Bahrain and the U.S. are both leading members of the International Maritime Security Construct, whose headquarters was just opened here in Manama.
We want to increase the 5,000 Bahrainis who visit the U.S. annually by extending our visas from five to 10 years’ validity and making it easier to get a visa in the first place. As it stands, some visa holders can now renew their visas online without setting foot in the Embassy.
Bahrain and the U.S. have a long and fruitful friendship and I look forward to all the opportunities to enhance and strengthen that friendship. And again, congratulations on Bahrain National Day!