WASHINGTON – The Office of the United States Trade Representative has
transmitted to the President and the Congress reports from 27 trade advisory
committees, comprising more than 700 practitioners representing diverse
interests and views, regarding the recently completed U.S.-Oman Free Trade
Agreement (FTA). The Trade Act of 2002 requires these committees to prepare
reports on proposed trade agreements for the Administration and Congress.
Support for the agreement was widespread among the committees.
"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
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