Trade Advisory Committees Support U.S.-Oman FTA
"The advisory committees recognize that the U.S.-Oman FTA is a comprehensive agreement which will open new markets in agriculture, manufactured products, and services to American firms and workers, and provide economic growth and employment opportunities for both the U.S. and Omani people," said Portman. "This agreement will strengthen the U.S. relationship with an important Middle Eastern ally, and bring greater economic freedom and prosperity to Oman. It is also an important stride towards President Bush’s vision for a U.S.- Middle East Free Trade Agreement."
The Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), which is appointed by the President and is the most senior committee, unanimously supported the agreement. According to the Committee, "ACTPN unanimously endorses the U.S. – Oman Free Trade Agreement. It is our view that the agreement meets the negotiating objectives laid out in the Trade Act of 2002, and that the agreement is in the best economic interest of the United States…The ACTPN views the agreement as an additional step toward the goal of a Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA). Importantly, the ACTPN also is of the opinion that the agreement will improve and strengthen overall U.S. relations with the countries in the Middle East."
A majority of the members of the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC) "support the conclusion that the Agreement provides adequate safeguards to ensure that Congress’s environmental negotiating objectives will be met" and "believes that the areas listed for environmental cooperation cover a range of issues which they would like to see addressed in this arena." A majority stated that "this Agreement, as well as the Administration’s larger Middle East Trade Initiative, might help contribute to economic growth and stability and to positive national security outcomes in the region."
Committees representing sectors such as consumer goods, services, information technology, intellectual property, and small business also expressed broad support for the Oman FTA. The consumer goods committee stated that "the agreement will deliver important benefits to consumer goods firms in terms of market access, regulatory transparency, and customs procedures." The information technology and e-commerce committee stated that "chapters on Market Access, Government Procurement, Technical Barriers to Trade, Telecommunications, Cross Border Trade in Services, and Intellectual Property…promote the economic interests of the United States and provide equity and reciprocity for our sectors." The small business committee "applauds the efforts of USTR and Commerce to open freer trade with Oman."
Agricultural advisory committees were also supportive. The senior-level Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) said the FTA "will increase opportunities for U.S. agricultural exports through the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. This comprehensive agreement covers all agricultural products and will provide immediate duty-free access on 87 percent of all agricultural tariff lines." The agricultural committee representing dairy, meat, and poultry products stated that "exports are expected to grow with the advantage achieved by this FTA of immediate, duty-free access for all U.S. agricultural commodities. This Committee recognizes and commends this FTA as a useful model for the further liberalization of trade between the United States and countries of the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East."
The members of the state and local government representatives (IGPAC) "in principle, support the trade liberalization objectives of the US-Oman Free Trade Agreement," but continued to stress, as they have in the past, the need for trade agreements to continue to respect the authority of state and local governments to regulate in areas under their jurisdiction, and the need for ongoing consultations with sub-federal governments.
The Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) objected to the agreement on grounds similar to its opposition to all other free trade agreements negotiated under the Trade Act of 2002 with both developed and developing countries, claiming insufficient protection of workers’ rights.
The trade advisory committee system was established in the Trade Act of 1974. The purpose of the system is to ensure that the Administration receives advice and assistance from a broad range of stakeholders in setting U.S. trade policy and developing balanced U.S. positions in trade negotiations. The advisory program is run jointly by five federal agencies: USTR, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, and the Environmental Protection Agency. USTR is the lead agency.
The advisory groups are made up of more than 700 cleared advisors from business, agriculture, labor, environmental groups, consumer groups, state and local governments, as well as academic experts and retired U.S. government officials. There are 27 advisory committees, which meet in Washington with U.S. trade officials to provide advice on proposed and on-going initiatives. In addition, USTR and other agencies keep advisors informed - through the Internet and by e-mail - of important developments in trade negotiations.
Recent advances in the advisory system include web-posted briefings at trade ministerial meetings, more frequent teleconference briefings for advisors, a secure website for review of documents, and a re-structuring of the industry advisory committees to reflect the changing makeup of the U.S. economy.
For more information, see the text of the reports at www.ustr.gov