United States Trade Relations with Muslim Countries

Article excerpt

The author provides a descriptive and analytic examination of the nature, magnitude, and structure of U.S. trade with Muslim countries. From the U.S. point of view, two-way trade with Muslim countries is small in dollar terms: the U.S. is a more critical market to Muslim countries than the imports from Muslim countries are to the U.S., except for oil and gas. The U.S. imports roughly one-third of its petroleum from Muslim countries, whereas its non-petroleum trade deficit with Muslim countries is only about $15 billion. Although trade disputes with Muslim countries are rare, and several Muslim countries benefit from free or preferential trade agreements with the U.S., the author lists others whose exports cannot compete in the U.S. market against rival producers under present U.S. trade policies.

Key Words: U.S. international trade, bilateral trade agreements, World Trade Organization, oil, natural gas, textiles,

I. Introduction

An issue of great concern in the United States over the last few years has been its relationship with Muslim countries. The September 11 terrorist attacks, followed by U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the nation-building effort there by the U.S. after the wars, have generated interest in public forums and academic circles on the U.S. relation with Muslim countries. While there is a considerable literature relating to U.S. political, energy and strategic interests in Muslim countries, particularly in the Middle East (see, for example, Ross 2005), few studies focus on the trade relation with the Muslim world. This is surprising since the U.S. has undertaken several initiatives in recent years to enhance and strengthen economic ties with Muslim countries. This paper plans to fill this gap by examining the U.S. trade relations with those nationss. More specifically, it provides a descriptive and analytic examination of the current nature, magnitude and structure of U.S. trade with them.

There are important reasons to examine this topic. After 9/11, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick declared that the promotion of trade relations would be one of the central weapons of America's campaign to combat terrorism (cited in Lael and Litan 2003). President Bush spoke in even stronger terms: "The terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, and we will defeat them by expanding and encouraging world trade" (quoted in Lael and Litan 2003). After its military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration has assigned trade policy a major role to combat terrorism and win peace. During the U.S.-Bahrain free trade agreement signing ceremony in September 2004, Robert Zoellick further declared that "a contest for the soul of Islam" is raging in Muslim countries, and that the U.S. wanted to help by promoting trade that generates jobs and reduces poverty (http://www.ustr.gov/). With this as context, what do we know about the U.S. trade relationship with Muslim countries?

Several survey results find a disquieting view of the United States relationships with them. A recent survey result, jointly released by Public Agenda and Foreign Affairs magazine, showed that Americans are perplexed and anxious about their country's relation with the Muslim world (Arumi and Bittle 2005). According to the Public Agenda Confidence in the U.S. foreign policy index, nearly 64 percent gave the U.S. a "C" or worse in its relations with Muslim countries. Forty percent of the respondents claimed that they "worry a lot," followed by another 34 percent who claimed that they "worry somewhat," about a growing hatred of the U.S. in those countries. Indeed, in a survey conducted for a Georgetown University research project, 'Muslims in the American Public Square,' Zogby International reports that 38 percent of American Muslims believe that American foreign policy is hostile toward Islamic countries and Muslims (Project MAPS).

The existence of strong Muslim antipathy toward the United States, particularly since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is hardly new. …