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Public Statements

United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


UNITED STATES-OMAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT -- (Senate - June 29, 2006)

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today the Senate is considering a free-trade agreement with Oman. And here we are, once again, facing a free-trade agreement with an important ally that is the product of a failed process, an inattentive administration, and a basic neglect of the will of Congress.

I think this is a decent agreement with Oman, and I am not interested in harming relations with an important Middle East ally because of my frustration with the administration. Economic integration of the Middle East is too critically important a goal and vital to our efforts in the war on terror. I understand that deficiencies remain in this agreement. I will monitor Oman's remaining commitments on worker rights very closely. We must continue to engage this volatile region of the world economically if we expect to make progress on a number of fronts.

I have said repeatedly to the administration that our trade agreements must include the basic International Labor Organization, ILO, standards within the four corners of the trade agreement and that those standards must be enforceable. I have said that we must address other abuses such as the recent reports of abhorrent working conditions in Jordan. So what have we done? On CAFTA, I offered an amendment calling on the administration to require equivalent dispute resolution procedures for workers' rights as we provide for patent violations. And even though that vote failed on a 10 to 10 tie, the administration did not even consider strengthening the standards.

On Oman, Senators CONRAD, BINGAMAN and I offered an amendment to strengthen slave labor laws. The committee adopted the amendment unanimously. Inexplicably, the administration has returned the implementing bill without the language--without an explanation--without justification. It is absolutely inconceivable that the administration would not support a ban on the importation of goods produced with slave labor. At a time when America is attempting to restore its image around the world, this certainly sends the signal that as long as this administration is in place, we should not anticipate common sense in Government.

But I will say that the intransigence demonstrated by the administration this week does not bode well for renewal of fast-track authority. Under the Constitution, Congress is empowered to manage our economic relationships. We grant that power to the administration so that we may present the world with one voice in our economic diplomacy. But we must evaluate under what conditions we grant this authority in the future--if we grant it at all. There is no doubt that the system is broken. And I will be actively engaged as we reevaluate this strategy.

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