Last week I voted strongly against H.R. 5684, the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act – a bill that would do nothing but wreak havoc on the WNC economy by sending local jobs overseas.
This agreement is just another in a long line of devastating trade deals, stretching back to President Bill Clinton’s signature of NAFTA. Foreign countries may be racing for the bottom with cheap labor and nonexistent environmental regulations, but we don’t have to help them by giving away the store.
The Oman Free Trade Agreement opens a loophole that will benefit Chinese companies at the expense of U.S. textile companies and workers. This loophole allows yarns and fabrics from China to be sent to Oman and assembled into apparel while still receiving duty-free access to the U.S. market, which is twice the level of current apparel trade with Oman. The apparel plants in Oman are Asian-managed and staffed with thousands of Chinese and Bangladeshi laborers who live and work in large enclosed compounds. As a result, this agreement will benefit China – not Oman or the United States.
While I have fought every “free” trade deal for the last sixteen years in Congress, I have also fought to bring new job opportunities to our region. We have accomplished much through the Education and Research Consortium to attract higher-paying, knowledge-based jobs to WNC. However, unfair trade deals like this Omani agreement only undermine these efforts.
Despite my opposition to the Oman Free Trade Agreement, it passed the House on July 20th by a vote of 221-205. The U.S. Senate passed its version of the Oman Free Trade Agreement in June, and it will now go to President Bush for his approval.
A comprehensive list of my votes against unfair trade agreements is available here.