WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following statement today on the House floor against the Oman Free Trade Agreement:
"Mr. Speaker, I have been a strong advocate for free trade and open markets because I believe that American businesses and workers can compete and win in the global economy. Increasing global interdependence is a reality in the 21st century, and it presents our nation with an opportunity to promote democratic reform, the rule of law and respect for basic human rights.
"It is incumbent upon us to foster global trade, to engage our partners in a system based on rules and law, and to work to raise the living standards of working men and women - not to recoil from the rest of the world. However, this Oman Free Trade Agreement is deeply flawed, undermining fundamental worker rights and threatening our national security. And, thus I strongly oppose it.
"Oman today does not remotely meet the five basic International Labor Organization standards, including the rights of association and collective bargaining, and bans on child labor, slave labor and discrimination in employment. There are no labor unions in Oman today. The only labor organizations are essentially management-labor committees. And while 70 percent of workers in Oman are expatriates, there is little, if any, participation by foreign workers in administering such committees.
"For eight months, Oman has refused to take a number of steps to ensure that its practices immediately comply with ILO standards and to bind those commitments under the agreement - as was done by Bahrain last year. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the Congressional Research Service confirmed just yesterday that this trade agreement would make it more difficult to protect U.S. ports, and block a takeover by foreign government-owned companies such as Dubai Ports World.
"It is regrettable that Republicans on the Rules Committee rejected amendments offered by my good friend, Congressman Cardin, that would have closed this loophole, as well as ensured compliance with ILO standards before this agreement goes into effect.
"Mr. Speaker, there is no reason that we cannot negotiate agreements that advance the cause of free trade, promote the rule of law, generate economic development of countries in great need, and extend to U.S. workers, farmers and businesses the advantages of expanded access to new markets. This flawed agreement fails to do so. I urge my colleagues to oppose it."