Cablegate: Newly-Elected Bahrain Chamber of Commerce And

Published: Wed 28 Dec 2005 03:01 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. In a December 28 meeting with the newly-elected Bahrain
Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors, the
Ambassador exchanged ideas with Board Chairman Dr. Essam
Abdullah Fakhro on ways to promote trade and investment
opportunities under the recently ratified U.S. - Bahrain Free
Trade Agreement (FTA). He stated that a possible April 2006
visit by the Crown Prince to the U.S. could be timed
perfectly to promote the FTA. A new GOB initiative to spur
investment by cutting red tape complements BCCI plans to
promote the FTA. End Summary.
The New Board
2. The Ambassador called on the newly-elected BCCI Board of
Directors December 28 to express his formal congratulations
on their electoral success, and to exchange ideas on how to
promote the FTA when it takes effect, hopefully in the coming
months next year. The new 18-member board is headed by
Chairman Essam Fakhro, former BCCI Second Vice-Chairman, who
was elected amid some controversy on November 26. As head of
the BCCI's dominant block, the Economic and Development
Group, Dr. Fakhro was the consensus candidate for the top
spot, which carries a four-year term. However, fellow block
member Adel Al A'ali received more votes in the November 16
general election. In a November 29 press conference, Dr.
Fakhro denied media reports of dissension among board members
and pledged to work under the slogan "One team, one task."
Other Board officers include First Vice-Chairman (former
Treasurer) Ebrahim Mohammed Ali Zainal, Second Vice-Chairman
Dr. Nezar Sadiq Mohammed Albaharna, Treasurer Jehad Hasan
Ebrahim Bukamal, Vice-Treasurer Saqer Shaheen Saqer Shaheen,
Executive Committee Member Sharif Mohammed Sharif Ahmadi and
Executive Committee Member Adel Hussain Mahdi Almaskati.
Expertise and Assistance Sought
3. Dr. Fakhro told the Ambassador that he had just been
appointed Chairman of the Economic Development Board's (EDB)
FTA Committee and looked forward to coordinating with various
governmental offices and local NGO's, including the Bahrain
Businessman's Association, Bahrain Businesswomen's
Association, and the Bahrain Economic Society to develop a
strategy for maximizing the benefits of the FTA. He said he
was also interested in collaborating with U.S. interests such
as the Embassy and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).
4. Dr. Fakhro said he sought specialized expertise on
promoting the FTA in Bahrain. He noted BCCI sponsorship of a
recent Booz-Allen FTA-related workshop, which addressed
opportunities in the information technology, healthcare,
education, legal, architectural engineering, and textile
sectors, and said he would pursue follow-up workshops that
would address industrial and business services sectors.
Board member Sameer Nass voiced interest in hearing from
experts experienced in Jordan's FTA implementation.
5. The Ambassador expressed strong interest in supporting
the effort to chart a way forward. The Ambassador
recommended regular meetings with Embassy and AmCham
interlocutors and suggested it would be appropriate to
organize a high-profile, celebratory event marking the
implementation of the FTA. (Note: Though the FTA has been
fully ratified by U.S. and Bahraini legislatures,
implementation is subject to Bahrain's passage of certain
intellectual property rights-enforcing legislation. End
Note.) The Ambassador said we should look for opportunities
to promote the FTA in the U.S., pointing out that a possible
visit by the Crown Prince to the U.S. in April could be
well-timed to maximize publicity for the FTA.
6. Board members expressed strong interest in USG support for
trade missions from the U.S. to complement those from
Bahrain. The Ambassador suggested an upcoming visit by U.S.
Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary Holly
Vineyard would be an opportunity to appeal for such support.
New GOB Initiative Complements BCCI Plans
7. The Ambassador applauded a December 25 announcement by
Minister of Industry and Commerce Hassan Fakhro, to replace
"red tape with a red carpet" for new investors. The
initiative announced by Minister Fakhro is geared toward
encouraging investment and its first phases are to be
implemented in January 2006. Key measures include a steep
reduction of commercial registration fees, and the slashing
of advance approval and permit requirements. The initiative
will also mean that shares of joint stock companies can be
traded without prior approval. "The new regime will mean it
is easier, cheaper, and faster to set up a business in
Bahrain, encouraging entrepreneurs and investors from within
the country and from abroad," said Minister Fakhro in
explaining the initiative. The Ambassador noted that plans
to educate the Bahraini business community on the new
initiative could complement and be coordinated with efforts
to promote FTA opportunities.
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