Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- The U.S. Senate approved a free-trade deal with Oman, providing a victory for the White House in its effort to lower trade barriers with countries in the Middle East.
Senators passed the bill 60 to 24 late Thursday. The House of Representatives has not yet voted on the measure.
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab praised the Senate vote. “The United States will gain much from this new economic partnership,” she said in a statement. “The agreement will create jobs and economic growth here … and promote democracy, prosperity, and hope in the Middle East.
“This new trade opening will expand opportunities for exports of machinery, automobiles, optic and medical instruments and electrical machinery, and agricultural products such as vegetable oils, and sugars, sweeteners, and beverage bases,” Schwab wrote.
“In addition, Oman will provide substantial market access across its entire services regime, provide a secure predictable legal framework for U.S. investors operating in Oman, provide for effective enforcement of labor and environmental laws, and protect intellectual property,” Schwab said.
The free-trade agreement with Oman is part of an effort by the Bush administration to create a Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) by 2013, building on existing agreements with Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, and Israel.