Viewing cable 05MUSCAT257
Title: OMAN GOES PUBLIC WITH FTA PLANS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT2572005-02-16 03:35:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS MUSCAT 000257 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI (TROBERTS), NEA/PPD (CWHITTLESEY) 
USDOC FOR 4520/ITA/MAC/AMESA/OME/MTALAAT 
STATE PLEASE PASS USTR/JBUNTIN AND JFENNERTY 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ECON KPRV EIND ETRD PREL OPRC KPAO MU
SUBJECT: OMAN GOES PUBLIC WITH FTA PLANS 
 
 
¶1.  This is an action request for USTR.  Please see para 5. 
 
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Commerce Minister Publicly Touts FTA Negotiations 
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¶2.  On February 13, in an annual address to celebrate the 
achievements of Oman in commerce and industry, Minister of 
Commerce and Industry (MOCI) Maqbool bin Ali Sultan took the 
opportunity to publicly affirm Oman's commitment to sign a 
free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States.  In his 
most public declaration to date, Maqbool went on to tell the 
business community that "serious negotiations" will begin 
with the arrival of the first U.S. negotiating team in March. 
 When asked about Saudi Arabia's objection to a similar FTA 
with Bahrain, Maqbool replied, "They have got a reason.  Oman 
has decided to go ahead and sign the FTA with the United 
States." 
 
¶3.  During a subsequent meeting with the Oman Chamber of 
Commerce and Industry (OCCI) February 14, Maqbool reiterated 
Oman's firm intention to proceed with FTA negotiations, 
reminding the group present that the MOCI held numerous 
meetings with OCCI participation to discuss each and every 
sector of the FTA before deciding to enter into negotiations. 
 In response to criticism that an FTA should be negotiated 
with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) collectively rather 
than with member states bilaterally, Maqbool reminded the 
group that negotiating with an economic bloc like the GCC 
could take years.  Moreover, the FTA will cover not only 
commodities but also services and other matters not yet 
governed by GCC unified legislation.  Declaring his support 
for the negotiations, the President of the OCCI, Salim bin 
Said al-Ghattami, said that a successful FTA with the U.S. 
will "open up prospects for investment cooperation and 
expanding trade exchange and free flow of commodities and 
services between the two countries." 
 
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Internet Public Remains Skeptical 
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¶4.  The unexpected announcements received relatively wide 
coverage as the lead story in the English-language paper 
"Oman Daily Observer", and the Arabic-language daily 
"Al-Watan."  Reactions in the Omani Internet chatroom 
Al-Sablah, however, were uniformly negative, with responses 
condemning the FTA as entirely in America's interest and 
questioning what "free" really means in the context of an 
FTA. 
 
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Action Request 
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¶5.  In an effort to address the heightened public interest, 
as well as to take advantage of the unusual momentum garnered 
by these public statements, the Embassy requests that USTR 
coordinate directly with the Embassy's Public Affairs Office 
to provide outreach materials, fact sheets, and success 
stories to disseminate to the local business and media 
community, as well as to interested ministry officials in 
advance of the upcoming negotiations March 11-14. 
 
¶6.  Public Affairs Officer:  Charles G. Cole, Tel: 
968-24-698-989 ext. 433; Fax: 968-24-699-771; E-mail 
colecg@state.gov.  Assistant Public Affairs Officer:  Lia 
Miller, Tel: 968-24-698-989 ext. 434; E-mail 
MillerLN@state.gov. 
BALTIMORE