US Trade Representative Rob Portman said on Friday that the agreement reached between the two countries would provide new export opportunities for US farmers, manufacturers and service industries.
“We will see greater openness, further development of the rule of law and political and economic reform in Saudi Arabia,” Portman said in a statement announcing the conclusion of the talks.
The agreement with the United States, the world’s biggest economy, was one of the last major hurdles to the country’s WTO membership. Saudi Arabia must complete negotiations at the WTO in Geneva on the formal document that will set the terms under which the world’s largest oil producer will become a WTO member.
Trade representative Rob Portman
Saudi Arabia has been trying for more than a decade to become a member of the 148-nation Geneva-based organisation that sets the rules for world trade.
A major stumbling block has been the country’s participation in the Arab League trade boycott of Israel.
Portman said that Saudi Arabia had agreed as part of the negotiations that it will have trade relations with all WTO members. Israel is a member of the WTO.
“Saudi Arabia has pledged to commit to the WTO rules in trading with member countries including Israel. It has also promised not to implement some aspects of the Arab boycott of Israel that affect US companies with dealings with Tel Aviv,” Portman’s office said.
But some members of Congress were not satisfied.
Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln said she was disappointed in the administration’s decision to conclude its bilateral negotiations with Saudi Arabia.
“I believe the administration has bypassed a golden opportunity to make progress on key US foreign policy goals in the areas of women’s rights, religious freedom and other important diplomatic issues as they relate to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” she said in a statement.
However, Frank Vargo, vice president for international relations at the National Association of Manufacturers, praised the announcement. He said the deal would expand trade opportunities for US companies.
Vargo predicted Saudi Arabia would be able to complete the remaining steps to become a WTO member by the end of this year.