One of the major challenges in stepping into the international trade market is finding the right marketplace. U.S. small businesses should look to our close ally, Bahrain, as a “bridge” to generating new sales and revenues among the wealthy Gulf-states and their new and growing, middle-class consumer markets.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Bahrain as the head of the U.S. delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress GEC held in Manama. While in Bahrain, I was able to meet with leaders from several countries to discuss ways to increase economic cooperation, specifically as it relates to finding new markets for U.S. small businesses.
One of the most productive and positive was with the Bahrain Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Mr. Zayed Al Zayani. My conversation with Minister Zayani was focused on exactly that: how do we connect U.S. small businesses to customers in Bahrain?
Bahrain is a small island country of approximately 1.5 million people located in the Persian Gulf. It is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and English is widely spoken. Most importantly, the United States and Bahrain entered into a free trade agreement in 2006, making it easier for U.S. goods and services to be sold to Bahrain, and from Bahrain, into the surrounding Gulf Cooperation Countries comprising a $1.6 trillion combined market.
Fortunately, a lot of good work has already been done. Under the leadership of our U.S. Ambassador in Bahrain, bilateral trade in goods has nearly doubled in the last two years to over $3 billion. Approximately 200 U.S. firms currently operate in Bahrain and several are helping Bahrain execute some of its largest infrastructure projects. Additionally, in 2017, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Bahrain Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism signed an agreement to strengthen the partnership between our two agencies aspiring to promote greater small business participation in international commerce and trade.
More profitable opportunities are out there in Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf, and we want to help American small businesses reach them, be it with market information, trade finance support, or matchmaking opportunities. While the oil and gas sector continues to represent the largest part of the growing Bahrain economy, other growth sectors include demand for America’s high-value manufacturing and industrial services, information technology, health care and medical equipment, construction and engineering, and financial technologies. So, as you consider new markets to grow your business, look to Bahrain for your next customer, and ask the SBA how we can help you get there.