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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08MUSCAT784 2008-11-17 10:42:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Muscat
Cable title:  

DEPUTY USTR VISIT CLEARS WAY FOR FTA IMPLEMENTATION

Tags:   PREL ECON ETRD MU 
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1. (SBU) Building upon the progress towards implementation
of the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement (FTA) achieved by the
visit of U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab to Oman on
October 24-26 (reftel), a team of USTR experts and
negotiators arrived in Muscat on November 7 for a week-long
series of meetings to hammer out remaining issues on
telecommunications, government procurement, and transparency.
Continued discussions on final intellectual property (IP)
issues, including amendments to Omani IP laws, also took
place between USTR experts and their Omani counterparts via
DVC and e-mail during this time period.



2. (SBU) On the evening of November 10, Deputy U.S. Trade
Representative John Veroneau arrived in Oman for talks with
Minister of Commerce and Industry Maqbool bin Ali bin Sultan
to review the latest progress on FTA implementation and to
address remaining obstacles in order to close out
negotiations. During a morning meeting on November 11,
Ambassador Veroneau and Maqbool noted the completion of
action items since the visit of the U.S. Trade
Representative, but acknowledged several potential sticking
points including telecommunications licensing fees, the
timeline for issuance of telecom licenses, the national
treatment of U.S. companies for Omani government procurement
purchases, and Omani Tender Board regulations. Both
officials pledged to help find "creative" solutions to these
issues.



3. (SBU) After continued negotiations between the USTR team
and Omani officials, Ambassador Veroneau and Maqbool met
again in the afternoon of November 12. They recognized that
due to the intense efforts of both sides, the FTA
implementation process was now close to being finalized. A
new telecom licensing fee structure, for example, was
proposed by Oman's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority
(TRA) and tentatively accepted by USTR, while a way forward
was reached on government procurement issues that included a
proposal for new interim Tender Board regulations. With no
apparent disagreements remaining that would block
implementation, Ambassador Veroneau and Maqbool agreed on a
tentative date of January 1, 2009 for the FTA to enter into
force.



4. (SBU) Comment: While implementation is still subject to
completion of a final checklist of issues, many of these
action items relate to the translation of agreed upon English
texts or the issuance of regulations and legal amendments
already reviewed by USTR experts in draft form. The Ministry
of Legal Affairs, which has unilaterally changed texts in the
past, will bear close watch, but it has strict marching
orders from the top to use the same language approved by
Omani and U.S. negotiators in preparing the necessary
regulations and laws for promulgation. End Comment.
GRAPPO