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James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Senate Approves Oman FTA

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

The US Senate today gave final congressional approval by a vote of 63-31 to a free trade agreement (FTA) with Oman that was opposed by US textile manufacturers.

The Senate had previously approved the pact, but the House of Representatives passed a different version, and today’s Senate vote was taken on the House-approved measure.

Although the agreement has a yarn-forward textile provision requiring products benefiting from the duty-free, quota-free treatment be made in Oman, it also includes a 50-million-square-meter tariff preference level (TPL) that permits inputs from third countries. The Washington-based National Council of Textile Organizations said the TPL is more than double that of Oman’s total textile and apparel shipments to the United States in 2005, and that fact formed the basis for the textile industry’s opposition.

“The Oman FTA advances the President’s vision for economic integration and development in the Middle East and participation in the peaceful community of trading nations,” said US Trade Representative (USTR) Susan C. Schwab. She added the agreement will expand opportunities for exports of machinery, automobiles, optic and medical instruments, and electrical machinery; as well as a number of agricultural products such as vegetable oils and sugars, sweeteners and beverage bases. She said it also offers opportunities for the United States in service areas.

In another textile trade related development, the USTR announced a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) with Mauritius, designed to promote greater trade with the United States. Overall trade with Mauritius last year amounted to $252 million, and its textile and apparel sector accounted for 69 percent of that. While textile and apparel trade is significant from the standpoint of Mauritius, it accounts for only about 1 percent of US textile and apparel imports from all sources.

Schwab said the TIFA will provide a formal mechanism to address bilateral trade issues and will “help enhance trade and investment relations between the two countries.”

September 19, 2006



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