Your greatest asset in this quest is the entrepreneurial spirit of your people. The best way to take advantage of that spirit is to make reforms that unleash individual creativity and innovation. Your economies will be more vibrant when citizens who dream of starting their own companies can do so quickly and without high regulatory and registration costs. Your economies will be more dynamic when property rights are protected and risk-taking is encouraged - not punished - by the law. Your economies will be more resilient when you adopt modern agricultural techniques that make farmers more productive and the food supply more secure. And your economies will have greater long-term prosperity when taxes are low and all your citizens know that their innovation and hard work will be rewarded.
One of the most powerful drivers of economic growth is free trade. So nations in this region would benefit greatly from breaking down barriers to trade with each other. And America will continue working to open up trade at every level. In recent years, the United States has completed free trade agreements with Jordan , Oman , Morocco , and Bahrain . America will continue to negotiate bilateral free trade agreements in the region. We strongly supported Saudi Arabia's accession to the World Trade Organization, and we will continue to support nations making the reforms necessary to join the institutions of the global economy. And to break down trade barriers and ignite economic growth around the world, we will work tirelessly for a successful outcome to the Doha Round this year.
As we seek to open new markets abroad, America will keep our markets open at home. There are voices in my country that urge America to adopt measures that would isolate us from the global economy. I firmly reject these calls for protectionism. We will continue to welcome foreign investment and trade. The United States of America will stay open for business.
The people of the Middle East can count on the United States to be a strong partner in improving your educational systems. We are sponsoring training programs for teachers and administrators in nations like Jordan , Morocco , and Lebanon . We have sponsored English language programs where students can go for intensive language instruction. We have translated more than 80 children's books into Arabic. And we have developed new online curricula for students from kindergarten through high school.
It is also in America's interest to continue welcoming aspiring young adults from this region to the United States for higher education. There were understandable concerns about student visas after Nine-Eleven. My Administration has worked hard to improve the process. And I am pleased to report that we are issuing growing numbers of student visas to young people from the Middle East . America must continue working to expand educational exchanges, because nations benefit from the contribution of foreign students who study in America...because we are proud to help train the world's leaders of tomorrow...and because we know there is no better antidote to the propaganda of our enemies than firsthand experience with life in the United States of America .
Building powerful economies also requires expanding the role of women in society. This is a matter of morality and of basic math. No nation that cuts off half its population from opportunities will be as productive or prosperous as it could be. Women are a formidable force, as I have seen in my own family and my own Administration. And as the nations of the Middle East open up their laws and their societies to women, they are learning the same thing.
Egypt has an excellent record of empowering women and has emerged as a model for the development of professional women. In Afghanistan , girls who were once denied even a basic education are now going to school, and a whole generation of Afghans will grow up with the intellectual tools to lead their nation toward prosperity. In Iraq and Kuwait , women are joining political parties, running campaigns, and serving in public office. And in some Gulf States, women entrepreneurs are making a living and a name for themselves in the business world.
Recently, I learned of a woman in Bahrain who owns her own shipping
company. She started with a small office with two employees. When she first
tried to register her business in her own name, she was turned down. She
attended a business training class and was the only woman to participate.
And when she applied for a customs license, officials expressed surprise
because no woman had ever asked for one before. Yet with hard work and
determination, she turned her small company into a