Thu, 01 July 2021
As president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bahrain (AmCham Bahrain) since 2013, Qays Zu’bi answers some pertinent questions put forth by Behnaz Sanjana, touching upon US-Bahrain relations and the association’s raison d’être.
What brought about the establishment of AmCham and what are its objectives?
The American Chamber of Commerce in Bahrain (AmCham Bahrain) was formed in 2006 as an independent, non-profit, non-political business association with a charter to capitalise on the newly implemented Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the US and Bahrain. Its purpose was to help companies take advantage of the new markets and benefits that emanated from this important agreement.
AmCham’s objectives include promoting commerce, investment and goodwill between the US and Bahrain, providing a forum in which business executives with American interests may identify, discuss, and pursue common interests, to heighten awareness of Bahrain’s strategic location, business-friendly laws, and commercial role in the Middle East, and increase bilateral US-Bahrain trade and business opportunities.
AmCham Bahrain is the official affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce and part of the global network of more than 120 American Chambers of Commerce to foster collaboration amongst the members and greater business opportunities between the US and the Gulf region. Through these affiliations, AmCham helps its members succeed by providing a wide range of networking and information sharing opportunities, B2B introductions, government advocacy, valuable business intelligence, and customised business support services.
How has the FTA bolstered existing ties between Bahrain and the US and how has it helped new ones to evolve?
As you may know, the US and Bahrain have enjoyed an economic relationship for over 120 years and the FTA has certainly made it even stronger. Bilateral trade of goods and services have more than tripled since the FTA went to effect and we have all expectations that this will continue to grow once the world economies recover from the impact of Covid-19.
It is significant to note that the US has negotiated FTAs with only 20 countries worldwide. The FTA is clearly a sign of the US government’s faith in the strength and transparency of Bahrain’s economy. From a larger perspective, this vote of confidence in Bahrain attracts investment into Bahrain by companies that may not even plan to trade with the US. The FTA is here to stay. The agreement does not expire, so companies can rely on the tenets and benefits of the FTA.
“It has been an honor to serve AmCham as its president since 2013. We have attracted strong board members committed to furthering AmCham’s mission which has allowed us to grow stronger, larger, and more effective. I have enjoyed building new alliances both locally, regionally and in the US to best leverage our strengths, expand our connections,
and serve our members”
What are some of the most notable benefits of the FTA in Bahrain?The FTA offers significant benefits that increase the competitiveness of a company’s exports/imports between the US and Bahrain. One hundred percent of bilateral trade in consumer, industrial, and agricultural products are tariff free. Both countries have accorded substantial market access across their entire services sector. They provide strong protection and enforcement for copyright, patent, and trademark owners as well as intellectual property protection in the digital environment, supporting electronic media and internet service providers.
Under the Agreement, both Bahrain and the US must publish their laws and regulations governing trade. Both countries also have committed, to the extent possible, to publish proposed regulations in advance in order an provide an opportunity for public comment prior to implementation.
The Agreement required both countries to take measures to increase transparency and efficiency in customs administration, including publication of laws and regulations on the Internet and procedural certainty and fairness. All these benefits create a ripe environment for promoting bilateral trade and investment.
There still remains great potential for expanding bilateral trade and investment. AmCham is committed to working with both governments and the business community to find innovative ways to grow bilateral trade and strengthen the private sector.
What is your membership profile and benefits do members enjoy?
Our members include Fortune 500 companies, small and medium enterprises, entrepreneurs, and non-profits. This includes American, Bahraini and other companies representing all sectors in the Bahrain economy with an interest in the US market.
AmCham provides a forum for the exchange of information, insights and ideas, the development of professional networks, advocacy support for promoting solutions to issues that impact business, educational and networking programs and customised business service are just a few of the many benefits AmCham Bahrain provides its members.
AmCham typically holds 30 events annually that are wide ranging and customised to meet our members’ varying needs and interests, making us the most active business association dedicated to US-Bahrain business opportunities. Each luncheon, seminar, tour, roundtable, and networking event provide members access and opportunities to meet other decision-makers from the private sector and government agencies.
Members attend events for free or at a special discount. Membership includes invitations to ‘members only’ roundtables, exclusive events with visiting VIPs, business tours, B2B introductions, as well as unique promotional opportunities.
“I would like to invite any company that desires to grow their presence in the US market and US companies investing in Bahrain to join the AmCham community and enjoy the benefits of an active and well-connected network.”
Are there any new plans in the pipeline for AmCham?
AmCham will be electing its next board of directors in July and they will assess new priorities but I know AmCham shall continue several current commitments which include raising awareness among the US oil and gas and alternative energy industries to encourage their interest and investment in the new and growing opportunities in Bahrain. We will continue to develop our resources to help companies use the FTA and find a path into the US or Bahrain market. We will also help companies better understand the tools available through the US Export Import Bank (EXIM) to help them compete in the international market. Listening to our members and finding innovative ways to support their success will always be a priority. We hope to bring back our charity golf tournament and US alumni reception later this year.