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Administration Official Says U.S. Could Benefit Substantially from an American-israel Free Trade Are

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The Administration’s Deputy Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, told a Congressional panel today that the U.S. stood to benefit substantially from the establishment of an American-Israel Free Trade Area that would eliminate all duties and non-tariff barriers on trade between the two countries.

The Free Trade Area was agreed to by President Reagan and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir at their White House talks last December. Lighthizer, appearing before the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, noted that 90 percent of all Israeli goods entered the U.S. duty free while about 45 percent of American exports to Israel were subject to duty.

“We stand to gain unrestricted access to an $8 billion Israeli market in which a high proportion of imports are dutiable and in which many non-tariff barriers exist, in exchange for eliminating duties on essentially 10 percent of our own imports from Israel,” Lighthizer told the legislators. U.S.-Israel trade amounted to $3 billion last year, with a $400 million balance in favor of the U.S.

Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Alan Tracy, who also testified before the subcommittee, said U.S. farm exports to Israel were valued at $300 million last year.

Lighthizer said that without the Free Trade Area, the U.S. would be at a disadvantage because Israel has a similar agreement with the European Economic Community (EEC) and is to eliminate all duties on industrial imports from EEC member-states by 1989. There is, however, opposition to the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area from the AFL-CIO which has warned that the agreement would set a bad precedent.

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