US firms must focus on Bahrain tieups
Manama, December 11, 2012
American firms should aim for partnership with Bahraini Islamic financial institutions to tap into the sector's lucrative growth opportunity, said a senior US official while speaking on the sidelines of a financial summit.
"There hasn't been sufficient interest from US institutions in terms of partnering with Bahraini Islamic finance companies," US Chamber of Commerce chief operation officer and executive vice-president David Chavern told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
"Our presence at the World Islamic Banking Conference is part of promoting such partnerships," Chavern said on the sidelines of the event.
Sophisticated investors continued to believe in Bahrain's economic performance and interest in the country has not waned despite last year's unrest.
"The unrest has been of concern to us but there has been no lack of interest," he said.
Islamic banks, which offer loans based on real, tangible assets, have seen more takers in the US following the subprime crisis, he noted.
"We want more activity under the free trade agreement (FTA) with Bahrain, as there is potential because of partnerships on both sides.
"The basics of Islamic finance, which consists of real, genuine economic value and assets, are completely parallel to trends in global finance in general," he said.
Bahrain became the first country in the Gulf to sign a FTA with the US in 2005.
The country's 'multi-faceted alliance' with the US was more than a mutually beneficial security partnership, said Bahrain Ambassador to the US Houda Nonoo.
"Our countries have enjoyed a productive and fruitful commercial partnership for many years. The FTA has led to a strong increase in trade between the two countries and has helped drive a progressive labour union reform that benefitted all Bahrainis," said Nonoo.
Islamic finance, which is a recent addition to the American economic scene, began as a home-grown initiative in the eighties from Pasadena, California.
"Islamic financial services continue to grow in the US as the number of Muslims has more than doubled since 2001," said US Ambassador Thomas Krajeski.
Muslims, who make up two per cent of the American population, are one of the fastest growing communities and the figures are set to double again by 2030, providing much optimism for Islamic finance to expand in the US.
"The key principles of Islamic finance appeal not only to American Muslims but to the general population as well," he said.
"Following the sub-prime crisis of 2008, the American consumer is looking for alternatives to mortgage financing in which risks are shared by lenders and borrowers," he added.-TradeArabia News Service