PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMS #0784 3221042
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171042Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0115
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
UNCLAS MUSCAT 000784
STATE PASS TO USTR, COMMERCE FOR T.HOFFMAN
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PREL ECON ETRD MU SUBJECT: DEPUTY USTR VISIT CLEARS WAY FOR FTA IMPLEMENTATION
REF: MUSCAT 743
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