Despite the global economic crisis, trade and commercial activity between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has continued to grow steadily over the past year to more than NIS 19 billion. "Since 2006, we are seeing a growing trend in trade between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," Doron Arbel, head of the Israel Tax Authority's Customs Department, told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday. "The most recent figures for 2008 show that the global economic crisis has not had a real impact on the Palestinian economy. Figures for the first half of this year point to a growing trend in commercial activity." Trade with the PA rose by about 17 percent to NIS 14.6b. in 2008, from NIS 12.4b. in 2007 and NIS 11.4b. in 2006. Palestinian imports and exports through Israeli ports rose by about 5% to NIS 4.6b. in 2008, from NIS 4.4b. in 2007 and NIS 4.2b. in 2006. The ITA reported figures on economic activity between Israel and the Palestinian Authority coming through the Allenby Bridge crossing point, which connects the West Bank to Jordan. Last week, 40 Palestinian business people from various sectors, including food and textiles, met at the Allenby Bridge crossing point with representatives of the ITA's Customs Department, the Foreign Ministry, the Airport Authority and the Allenby Bridge Border Control to discuss facilitating trade of goods and services. The meeting was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and was the second in a series of meetings that started in April and is expected to take place every three months. The Allenby border terminal handles 1.5 million people and NIS 500 million worth of cargo a year, a figure that has been growing steadily for years, the ITA said. In July, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered that the operating hours of the Allenby border terminal for the import and export of goods be immediately and significantly expanded to increase the volume of commercial activity and improve the economic situation of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria.