Oman, the United States and Our History of Free Trade

The Oman-United States trade relationship is more like a long-term friendship. It has the hallmarks of comfortable, stable cooperation built on mutual respect, but it also has an adventurous side—we are always willing to climb new mountains together. Since the 1833 signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, the relationship between Oman and the United States has been mutually beneficial and strong. That treaty, which was the first bilateral accord between America and an Arab Gulf state, established a foundation to support the growth of our countries’ diplomatic and economic ties. In the past 60 years the strength of these ties has been tried and tested thanks to our shared ability to engage in close bilateral diplomacy, develop a military cooperation agreement, and establish a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Following the successful, country-wide FTA awareness program in 2015, a joint Omani-U.S. government team, led by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the U.S. Embassy, will deliver a series of workshops to help business owners learn more about doing business with, and in, the United States.

The U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement was signed relatively swiftly. In 2004, the George W. Bush administration notified the U.S. Congress of its intent to join a trade pact with the Sultanate of Oman. Almost exactly two years later, on January 19, 2006, the Oman-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was signed, and went into force on January 1, 2009. Established to promote investment and trade in goods and services, the FTA allows our traders many benefits. This includes minimizing or eliminating tariff and nontariff barriers, expediting the delivery of goods and services, and putting in place stronger protections for investors. It covers a wide range of trade in goods and services, and safeguards intellectual property rights, protects the labor force, promotes and ensures high environmental standards, and allows for dispute settlement. The FTA opens doors for Omani commerce by offering the many advantages of selling to the U.S. market, decreasing the price of U.S. products, presenting future partnership opportunities with American companies, and highlighting Oman as a trusted trading partner. In turn, the Omani government grants U.S. businesses rights similar to Omani businesses, such as 100% foreign ownership companies, and a reduction in minimum capital requirements.

The first meeting of the FTA Joint Committee, co-chaired by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Oman’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, took place in early 2010 to discuss trade and labor issues and increase the FTA’s usage. Over the years, several awareness programs have been developed to help businesses and potential investors take advantage of the FTA. The awareness program has successfully highlighted the many benefits of the Agreement. In 2015, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the U.S. Embassy—hosted by the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry and in close coordination with Royal Oman Police Customs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—hosted a series of presentations on the FTA. Hundreds of individuals in five Omani cities learned about the basics of the FTA, and received tools they can use to take full advantage of the agreement. The U.S. government has also worked closely with the Oman-American Business Center to deliver trainings and open discussions for companies and potential investors in both countries. The U.S. Embassy’s commercial section has hosted numerous trade delegations, coordinated U.S. government speakers and visits, distributed information on trade and investment opportunities, engaged in commercial advocacy efforts, and acted as liaison between Omani government agencies and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s export assistance offices.

The current bilateral FTA awareness program involves a series of workshops detailing several aspects of the FTA. Kicked off by the Oman-U.S. FTA Awareness Workshop on May 11, 2016 at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Muscat, the expanded awareness program will highlight specific FTA topics for businesses interested in working with—and within—the United States. These topics may include rules of origin and customs procedures, market access, standards, regulations, and barriers to trade, doing business on the state level, and U.S. business expectations when doing business overseas, among other trade-related matters.

Oman’s prime location for shipping and logistics—in addition to its multiple free zones and ports—make it an excellent choice for American business and investment. To reap the benefits of the FTA, entrepreneurs on both sides must educate themselves and pursue trade partnerships with the other. There is much to be gained, and the tools the U.S. and Omani governments offer can help Omani commerce thrive. We hope you take advantage of the tremendous opportunity our governments have provided, and look forward to working with you to strengthen the long-standing economic and diplomatic ties between our nations. With the help of Omani business trailblazers leading the way into the U.S. market, we will continue to climb mountains together well into the future.