Will Congress Pass the Oman Free Trade Agreement—Another Failed Deal?

Posted by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney
We’ve seen what a failure the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been. From 1993 to 2004, the United States lost more than 1 million jobs due to growing trade deficits with our NAFTA partners, while workers in Mexico have seen their real wages erode.

But that didn’t stop the Bush administration from twisting arms in Congress to pass by a bare one-vote margin the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)—yet another deal that looks out for the interests of Big Business but includes few protections for workers’ rights or the environment.

Now, the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement (OFTA) is on the table, and Congress should reject this latest expansion of NAFTA’s failed model. This model has accelerated the loss of good jobs here while exacerbating poverty and social disparities in our trading partners.

The lack of effective labor provisions in OFTA is particularly significant in light of the recent New York Times article revealing egregious labor abuses in Jordan—a nation with which the United States has a free trade agreement. These violations include human trafficking, 20-hour workdays, and widespread failure to pay back wages. Worse—the Oman FTA contains even weaker labor provisions than the Jordan FTA.

Congress must oppose the Oman agreement and send a message to the American people and to the world: America’s workers want trade pacts that don’t ignore fundamental human rights.