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United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


UNITED STATES-OMAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. I appreciate the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, what this is about is finding peace and security in the world. The future of peace and security in the world largely rests upon the future of peace and security in the Middle East. The question is what we are as Americans going to do to help Middle Eastern countries, moderate Middle Eastern countries, be more open, be more fair, be more free, be more democratic, be more peaceful. This agreement does that.

Now, for one reason or another, Members here, I believe, have decided to oppose this agreement and then look for reasons to justify that opposition. They have raised two big red herrings, labor and ports. We asked the Congressional Research Service to look at this port issue, to look at this red herring issue.

I want to read from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service that did two studies this month on this issue. Upon close inspection of the language in this agreement, it appears that this claim is misleading because it appears that Omani companies are already presently able to perform these port services. Phrased another way, the United States has reserved the right to maintain our existing legal restrictions with respect to those aspects of maritime transportation in which we already have limitations, as well as adopt new measures in these categories that may be more restrictive.

In some ways, it imposes new opposition and new restrictions that don't currently exist with respect to management of ports.

In conclusion, report number two: while it is theoretically possible for Oman to bring a legal challenge to the actions of the United States before a third-party tribunal, the United States would appear to be on solid legal grounds for asserting not only that the panel does not have the legal authority to determine the validity of such a matter, but also that the inconsistent measure is permitted and justifiable, given the broad self-judging language of the national security exemption.

This means we decide unilaterally, we decide if any of these transactions are not in our national security interest, it doesn't happen. There is nothing the WTO can do about that.

Now, what about labor? This is another agreement that we have had, the labor standard invoked. This is the strongest labor agreement of any trade agreement we have brought to the floor in this Congress and in previous Congresses.

Now, in an effort to be bipartisan, in an effort to work with the other side of the aisle, we have had an exchange of letters and agreements between the Omanis, Democrats and our government USTR.

In November 2005, the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee asked Oman to clarify six areas of law and asked for nine concessions in labor law. In January, Oman responded in detail to all of those concerns. In February 2006, the Democrats forwarded another set of demands and questions, raising new issues. In March, in response to those concerns, Oman made eight commitments to the United States and agreed to enact all of these reforms.

It goes on and on: new demands being requested, new demands being met, to the point where the Omanis have, by decree, already implemented many of these higher labor standards. Any of those that they didn't already decree just a couple of weeks ago, they have promised to put them into law by October 30.

What did we do with Bahrain? With Bahrain they promised to introduce legislation to raise their labor standards.

That was the Bahrain standard. With Oman, no, they did not promise to implement legislation. They promised to implement law by a date certain this year.

So we have increased labor standards. We have put into place core ILO standards. We are rising the tide, but what it all gets down to is this.

Because of this agreement, the Omanis are raising labor standards for their workers. Because of this agreement, Omanis are making their country more free and more transparent for their people. Because of this agreement, we are saying thank you to an ally. Let us continue to move toward peace and prosperity.

Why do I care so much about this? Because I do not want my kids to face the war on terror that we are facing right now. And how do we do that? We do that by making sure that these countries, from which many terrorists come, have opportunities for their young people.

I do not want a young person, the next generation, growing up in tyrannical dictatorships susceptible to the whims of al Qaeda, appealing to the madrassas. I want young people in these countries growing up, reaching their dreams, reaching their potential, having freedom, having the ability to determine where they want to go with their lives, being creative, being able to channel their energy in a positive direction so our children do not have to face this war or on terror.

We must pass this trade agreement because it is vital to our national security interests.

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