Israel and the United States are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement at a conference hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce.

Minister of Industry and Trade Binyamin Ben-Eliezer is in Washington for the occasion.

On Tuesday, a special conference will be held at the United States Chamber of Commerce marking the U.S.-Israel Business Initiative, a new program in the Middle East department. It is dedicated to the advancement of relations between American and Israeli commercial players at all levels. The Chamber, the largest of its kind in the world with over three million members, says that the new Initiative will be a national forum for dialogue on innovation, entrepreneurship, and the key commercial and economic issues of interest to American and Israeli companies.

The conference will feature leading Israeli innovators and entrepreneurs, high-ranking American and Israeli government officials, and top American companies. The goal is to increase trade between Israeli and American companies, by introducing new financial bodies into the picture and by enhancing existing trade relationships.

Ben-Eliezer, IDF Brig.-Gen. in the reserves and a Knesset Member since 1984, headed the Labor Party for a short while and has served in several ministerial capacities in various Israeli governments. He said his visit to the United Statesis designed to “maintain and promote our relations with the US, our most important business partner.”

Trade between Israel and the U.S.grew in 2008 by 8%, to $26 billion, Ben-Eliezer said, “even though this was the height of the world financial crisis.”

Boaz Hirsch, Deputy Director for Foreign Trade in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said, “We are very proud and happy about this new initiative by the American Chamber of Commerce to build a permanent framework for the advancement of bilateral trade relations. Israel is one of the few countries chosen by the Chamber for such activity, alongside countries such as India and Brazil.”

Intellectual Property Agreement
He noted that the 25-year-old agreement is one of Israel’s oldest, “and its contribution to US-Israel trade relations over the years has been very positive. In the past year, we reached an agreement with the Americans regarding the long-standing issue of intellectual property. The very fact that we can work on and solve problems like this is testimony to our strong relations and the importance that both sides attribute to them.”

Ben-Eliezer will hold a number of key meetings, including with the Director of the World Bank, the Chief of the New York Police Department, a group of media  investors, and more. He will take part in a special dinner with leaders of the American-Jewish community, and will grant honorary awards to Ron Lauder and Harvey Krueger.

Ministry of Trade has statistics show that in the first eight months of this year, Israeli-US trade totaled $11.9 billion, up 9% compared to the same period the year before. Exports were up 9% to $8 billion, and imports were up 7% to $3.8 billion.