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News ::
Bush Proposing Mideast Free Trade Area (english)
09 May 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush is promoting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by dangling an attractive economic prize: the removal of U.S. trade barriers for countries in the Middle East within the next decade.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush is promoting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by dangling an attractive economic prize: the removal of U.S. trade barriers for countries in the Middle East within the next decade.

In a commencement speech Friday at the University of South Carolina, the president was urging the Israelis and Palestinians to open negotiations for a peace accord, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday evening.

Stopping in Columbia, S.C., before a trip to sell his tax-cut plan in New Mexico, Nebraska and Indiana, Bush was arguing that increased, unrestricted U.S. trade with the Middle East could help the region prosper, the official said. The president believes ``economic prosperity is critical'' to making the peace process a success, the official said.

Violence in the Middle East continues, but Bush is hopeful that Secretary of State Colin Powell will make progress toward restarting negotiations when he travels to the region this weekend for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Powell's mission is to gain acceptance of a blueprint for peace, the ``road map'' developed by the Bush administration, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. Key provisions include a cease-fire to end 31 months of violence, commitments to stop fighting, a freeze on building homes for Jews on the West Bank and a rollback of some existing settlements.

Bush was offering broad outlines for a Middle East free-trade zone in his South Carolina speech. The United States already has free-trade agreements with Israel and Jordan and is negotiating one with Morocco. The United States also has such pacts with Canada, Mexico and, as of Wednesday, Singapore.

Terms would have to be negotiated country by country. Some conditions will be required, such as having a market economy and a commitment to combatting terrorism, the official said.

``There are norms that are in place that free-trading countries all across the globe participate in,'' the official said. ``It will take time to meet those goals. That's why he's outlined a realistic goal of a decade.''
See also:
http://channels.netscape.com/ns/news/story.jsp?idq=/ff/story/0001/20030509/115849318.htm
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