Don't judge a book by its cover. Or, better yet, don't judge one Middle Eastern country by the action of others.
That's the feeling of Adel S. Jamsheer, industrial attache in the Bahrain embassy in Washington, D.C., as he attempts to lure Utah exports and business development to his tiny island country in the Persian Gulf.Jamsheer, who was in Salt Lake City to talk to Utah businesses and address the World Trade Association of Utah with the idea of encouraging them to export to Bahrain, said his country has a stable government, doesn't approve of some extreme groups operating in the area and desires American goods.
"Bahrainians are open-minded and we consider our country as the Hong Kong of the Middle East," said Jamsheer in reply to a question about the flap over "The Satanic Verses."
"Neither the book nor the author deserve the attention they are getting," Jamsheer said. "Because Bahrainians stay away from the extreme issues, we must change people's attitudes about the area so they feel better about exporting to Bahrain and building companies," he said.
Many American businessmen already have visited Bahrain and in 1990 between 300 and 500 businessmen from several countries will be invited to visit Bahrain to examine exporting and business location possibilities.
With only 450,000 people, Bahrain might not be the best market for some types of goods, but it is centrally located in the Persian Gulf and can be used as a distribution center for the entire area, Jamsheer said.
Bahrain is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. There are 16 million people in the GCC countries, but adding the 112 million people in Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Iran make it a big potential for sales.
The Iran-Iraq war scared many American businessmen away from doing business in the Middle East, but now the war is over it's time to invite Americans back, he said. When American companies ceased doing business in the area the void was filled by European and Asian companies, Jamsheer said.
He said such American companies as United Parcel Service, McDonnell Douglas and Combustion Engineering Co. are doing business in Bahrain and the Ogden-based Jetway Inc. is helping remodel the Bahrain airport.
To attract business to Bahrain, there is freedom of ownership, full capital and profit repatriation, no foreign exchange control, no tax on imports, duty-free imports on machinery and raw materials, duty-free exemptions on exports to GCC countries and labor costs as low as $1.40 per hour.