Trade News Special Advisory — July 3, 2006


House Committee and Senate Votes Show Growing Opposition to Oman FTA
-- But Final House Vote Could Still Be Next Week!

Friends,

I wanted to make sure that you received the news about the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate floor votes on OFTA late last week.

In short, thanks to your hard work and your thousands of letters and calls to Congress, last Thursday was a GREAT DAY!!!

In the House of Representatives, the powerful Ways and Means Committee held its formal and final committee vote on OFTA, and every single Democrat on the committee voted “no.” In 15 years of watching trade votes, this was the FIRST time trade legislation did not get even one Democratic vote in committee!

This bodes really well for the work of lining up Democratic opposition in the final House vote expected the week of July 10th. If we keep the number of Democratic House "yes" votes way down, we may see the GOP pull this bill because the only other alternative will be to make their election-vulnerable House Republicans walk the plank (vote against their districts’ clear interests) - again!

Meanwhile, over in the Senate – land of knee-jerk trade agreement “yes” voters – we definitely made progress by getting 34 “no” votes on OFTA. Of course it would have been better to win, but this was the Senate, folks; except for NAFTA and CAFTA, this was our best Senate showing in a trade vote in the last two decades. Keep in mind only 13 Senators voted against the last Middle East trade agreement – with Morocco.

While the Senate had its share of sellouts, there were also a lot of pleasant surprises, including “no” votes from some long-time anti-fair traders like Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), as well as both North Carolina Republican Senators. For a full roll call of the Senate votes, click here.

Looking ahead, the final showdown on OFTA will be the full House vote, which we are expecting when Congress comes back to Washington after this week’s Independence Day District Work Period. If you haven't yet contacted your Representative in the House about the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, can you send an email today?

If you've already sent Congress an email, but haven't heard back, it's important that you call your Representative, demand to know his or her position on OFTA, and let us know what they say!

If you’ve already called, but couldn’t get the office to give you a position, please call again…and again…and again (in lobbying, the relentless win the votes). Every member of Congress has received plenty of information now about OFTA, so don’t buy the “we don’t know the details yet” line. Don’t be satisfied until you are able to reach someone in the office who can tell you what your Congressperson is thinking.

Want to do more to stop NAFTA expansion? Ask for a meeting with your congressperson this week over the July 4th recess, or confront them with a question at a public event. Want help planning a meeting or public activity on the Oman FTA? Email David Edeli at dedeli@citizen.org.

On this 4th of July, I am honored to work with all of you for a better USA and a better world,

Lori M. Wallach
Director
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch




Bloomberg News
House Democrats Take Party Line Stand Against Oman Trade Accord
June 29, 2006 2:32pm EDT

By Mark Drajem

June 29 (Bloomberg) -- A political party-line split over the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement during a House of Representatives committee meeting today is setting the stage for a contentious election-year vote on the measure next month.

Legislation to implement the trade agreement passed the House Ways and Means Committee today with 23 lawmakers voting in favor of the measure, all of whom were Republican, and 15 members against the measure, all Democrats. It was the first time a Bush administration trade agreement failed to get any support from a Democrat on that committee.

Democrats oppose the agreement because they say Oman hasn't done enough to improve labor rights, such as less government involvement in worker committees and stronger penalties for anti-union tactics. Democrats were seeking changes in Omani labor law that would be enforceable under the trade agreement.

"When we look at the practices on the ground, we find that international labor standards are not being'' respected, U.S. Representative Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said before the vote.

The full House of Representatives will likely vote on the measure sometime next month, where passage is still likely. Republicans hold a 231 to 201 majority over Democrats in the House, with one independent member and two vacancies.

"I do not believe we will have much bipartisan support on the question of Oman,'' Representative Charles Rangel of New York, the top Democrat on the committee, said after the vote.

The Senate Finance Committee endorsed the Oman accord yesterday. The full Senate began debating the legislation earlier today and is likely to vote in a matter of hours.

'Consensus Out of Reach'

The trade agreement, which would eliminate most tariffs and other trade barriers between the U.S. and Oman, is small, with $1.2 billion in goods traded between the two nations last year. Despite its size, the Oman deal has been thrust into the spotlight largely because Democrats are taking opportunity to voice their dissatisfaction with trade deals of the past.

Many Democrats have lamented that the Bush administration refuses to cater to their demands that labor-rights and other provisions be written into U.S. trade accords, citing examples such as last year's Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Representative John Tanner, a Tennessee Democrat, was one of only 15 Democrats to vote for the Central American deal. He voted against Oman today.

"I've grown frustrated,'' Tanner explained. ``The lack of dialogue over these trade measures renders consensus out of reach.''

The Oman agreement also is a component of a broader plan by President George W. Bush to ease political instability and terrorism in the Middle East by creating a free-trade zone between the region and the U.S.

"It's important for strategic reasons that we have this agreement with Oman,'' Representative Phil English, a Pennsylvania Republican, said today. ``I am concerned that we've lost sight of the fact that this is a strategic opportunity with a friend.''

To contact the reporter on this story:
Mark Drajem in Washington at (202) 624-1964 or
mdrajem@bloomberg.net


Send your letter to Congress here: http://action.citizen.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=3664


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