Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Oman Law Digest 2009 - TREATIES AND CONVENTIONS

Oman acceded to the WTO in 2000 and is in the process discharging its liberalisation commitments. Oman is a signatory to double taxation treaties with a number of countries. It has entered into investment protection agreements with several countries. It is a signatory to International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes 1965; 1958 New York Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979; Convention on Eradication of Racial Discrimination; UN Agreement on Registration of Ships; Paris Convention for Protection of Industrial Property; Berne Convention for Protection of Literary and Artistic Works 1971 and 1979; International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978; World Intellectual Property Organisation Conventions.

The United States of America and Oman entered into a Free Trade Agreement (“FTA”) on 19 January 2006 as part of the US strategy to create the Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) by 2013. It is a comprehensive pact designed to eliminate tariffs and barriers and expand trade between both countries. Oman is the fifth Middle Eastern country to have negotiated an FTA with the United States. Effective 1 January 2009, the US-Oman Free Trade Agreement came into force. All consumer and industrial products traded between the US and Oman will now be tax-free. As a result, residents in Oman can expect lower prices on US consumer and industrial products. Similarly, Omani companies seeking to do business with the US will now have open access to the world’s largest economy. In addition to eliminating its tariffs on US products, Oman will provide substantial market access across its entire services regime, provide a secure, predictable legal framework for US investors operating in Oman, provide for effective enforcement of labour and environmental laws, and protect intellectual property. The US has an FTA with only one other GCC country (Bahrain), although more are expected in upcoming years. It remains to be seen how current Omani procedures will adapt to the provisions of the FTA, but it is clear that the FTA will encourage strong economic relations between the US and Oman.

Two-way goods trade between the United States and Oman was US $748 million in 2004. US goods exports to Oman in 2004 totaled US $330 million. Oman’s accession to the WTO in 2000 and the 2004 US-Oman bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) paved the way for a robust economic dialogue on promoting closer economic ties, freer trade, greater openness, a stronger investment climate, and economic reforms. FTAs were also signed by the US with Jordan, Morocco and Bahrain in the Middle East.