Deal to boost US trade ties with Gulf countries

TheUnited Statessaid it has signed a framework agreement withSaudi Arabiaand other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to explore ways to boost trade and investment with the region.

Total two-way trade between theUnited Statesand the GCC totaled almost $ 100 billion last year, with theUSrunning 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 strategicUSpartner in the Middle East andNorth Africaregion,” US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk said in a statement.

US goods exports to the GCC totaled nearly $ 38 billion in 2011, led by vehicles, machinery, aircraft, electrical machinery, and optical and medical instruments.

TheUnited Statesimported nearly $ 62 billion of oil, aluminum, fertilizers, organic chemicals and other goods from the region last year.

USforeign direct investment in GCC countries was $ 23.5 billion in 2010, USTR said.

TheUnited Statesalready has free trade agreements withOmanandBahrainand individual trade and investment framework agreements with the four other GCC members.

The new regional forum will complement the existing bilateral pacts, USTR said.