June 8, 2006

Rep. Gerlach Touts Support for Israel Now, but Supported Free Trade Agreement with Bahrain, a Nation That Refuses to End Israel Boycott

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Political problems caused by Rep. Jim Gerlach’s (R-Pa.) support of the controversial 2005 Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), an expansion of NAFTA, may be exacerbated by recent revelations that the Arab nation of Bahrain, whose U.S. free trade agreement Gerlach supported in 2005, has maintained its anti-Israel boycott, said Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division today as part of its ongoing trade vote accountability project.

During the debate over the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement (BAFTA), many in the U.S. Congress raised concerns that Bahrain was part of the Arab League boycott of Israel that is designed to economically isolate and undermine the Jewish state. When U.S. trade officials failed to include a requirement that Bahrain remove its Israel boycott in the trade agreement, many members of Congress opposed the pact. Gerlach voted for it.

“Congressman Gerlach’s recent campaign activities to promote his support for Israel seem awfully cynical given he is on the record supporting a trade agreement with Bahrain, a country that celebrates its continuing Israel boycott,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Recent Jerusalem Post reports quote Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa denying that his country would end the boycott. According to a Bahrain Tribune article quoted by the Jerusalem Post, Khalifa announced that “relations would be normal with Israel when the Arab League orders the Arab countries to end the boycott and until then the Kingdom was sticking to the boycott.”

“Congressman Gerlach faces a tough election in part thanks to his bad trade votes,” Wallach said. “He cast a deciding vote for the CAFTA-NAFTA expansion, a deal that threatens Pennsylvania jobs, by claiming he had some deal that never materialized to fix U.S.-China trade problems. He voted for a trade agreement with Bahrain despite its boycott of Israel but now wants to claim he is a great supporter of Israel.”

Gerlach has not taken a position on the next Middle Eastern Free Trade Agreement, the Oman-U.S. Free Trade Agreement now pending before Congress.

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