NEW YORK (Oct. 23)
The creation of a Free Trade Area (FTA) between Israel and the United States that would eliminate all duties and nontariff barriers on trade between the two countries was praised today by the Reagan Adminstration’s trade representative, William Brock, and by Rep. Thomas Downey (D. NY), a leading proponent of the FTA.
Both Downey and Brock appeared before some 150 businessmen from the U.S. and Israel who gathered for a day-long symposium on U.S.-Israel Import-Export Investment Opportunities and the Free Trade Area Agreement at the Westbury Hotel here.
Brock, the keynote speaker, described the creation of the FTA as a “difficult, complicated and fundamentally important process. ” He said the Administration ran “some political risk” in trying to bring the agreement to Congress during “the waning days of a contentious session” and “in the heat of a political compaign.”
Brock added that President Reagan has not yet signed the measure, which was approved by Congress, “but I expect he will.” He said negotiations were being held on the assumption the bill will be signed.
According to Brock, tariffs will be reduced to zero over the next ten years on all products on both sides. The U.S., he said, is already doing several billion dollars worth of trade with Israel annually.
Brock said investors on both sides should look for opportunities and investors in Israel can act with absolute assurances that their products made in Israel will have duty free access to the U.S. when the bill is implemented.
‘A WATERSHED’ IN U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONS
Downey, meanwhile, addressing an afternoon session of the symposium, called the FTA agreement “a watershed” in U.S.-Israel relations. “It is critical to both countries,” he said. He urged American businessmen to invest “vigorously” in Israel.
He described the agreement as a “testing ground” for free trade agreements with other countries in the world. He said if the Israel-U.S. agreement fails, it will be difficult for the advocates of free trade in Congress to gain support for similar agreements with other countries in the future.
Downey said that Israel showed a lot of courage in agreeing to undertake the accord with the United States. “Israel is jumping into the cold water of free trade,” he asserted. “It took a lot of courage, on the part of Israel.”
He noted that the U.S. is exporting to Israel more goods than Israel is exporting to America. “American investments in Israel,” he said, are “therefore a smart investment for Americans and good for Israel.”
Today’s symposium was co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the New York Department of Commerce, American-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry, American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.