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United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. LYNCH. Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my strong opposition to the Oman FTA. This is déja 2 vu: last summer we were working against CAFTA ..... now we have the Oman FTA.

What we have here is identical language to the problematic and inadequate language that was contained in CAFTA and NAFTA before that. Most shocking, the administration has slipped language into the Oman FTA that will threaten U.S. port security. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I represent the Port of Boston. To me, this FTA really hits home and is particularly disturbing.

The simple fact is that under this agreement, if an Omani company sought to acquire landside services at U.S. ports and the U.S. government took action to stop or limit that acquisition, the Omani company could sue the U.S. government for violating its FTA rights. The challenge would then be decided by a U.N. or World Bank tribunal.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service released a report a couple days ago that confirms that the Oman FTA would make it harder to protect U.S. ports. The CRS report makes clear that the Oman FTA would create a new right under an international trade agreement, which would require the United States to allow any Omani company to provide ``landside aspects of port activities.''

The CRS report further confirms that Dubai Ports World, DPW, could use the U.S.-Oman FTA to obtain this new right guaranteed by an international trade agreement to buy U.S. port operations. All DPW would have to do is create a subsidiary in Oman. DPW already has commercial operations in at least 10 countries. It would not be hard for DPW to meet the Oman FTA's standard--any business established in Oman is eligible to take advantage of the benefits of the agreement. Only businesses with ``no substantial business activities''--a very low threshold--are excluded.

Mr. Speaker, not only does this FTA pose homeland security concerns, but instead of enforceable labor provisions with teeth, this free trade agreement suggests only that Oman adopt and enforce its own labor laws. It offers no assurance that existing labor problems will be resolved, and allows labor laws to be weakened or eliminated in the future, with no possibility of recourse.

In Oman, their 2003 labor laws remain in serious violation of the International Labor Organization's most important and fundamental rights: freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively. There are no independent unions in that country. In fact, Oman not only fails on labor rights, but on all human rights!

The Bush Administration State Department's 2006 ``Trafficking in Human Persons'' report downgraded Oman to a ``Tier 2 Watch List'' country, just one step above the countries with the worst human trafficking records. In 2005, Oman was only on ``Tier 2'' of the State Department's human trafficking list, meaning that Oman's trafficking practices and regulations worsened from 2005 to 2006.

We talk a lot about the war in Iraq, and the President of the United States has described it in many cases as an effort to export democracy. Well, I have got news for you; you do not export democracy through the Defense Department.

This is where you export democracy, in our trade agreements, through our Commerce Department. Democracy is all about opportunity, and we should, in our trade agreements, give these foreign workers an opportunity to stay in their own country, to buy goods from us that would create a good dynamic by creating jobs in this country. Democracy is about opportunity, and if we are really serious about exporting democracy, it starts right here. It starts with our free trade agreements.

Join me in voting ``no'' on the Oman Free Trade Agreement.


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