Yesterday, the House joined the Senate in approving a free trade agreement with Oman on a 221-205 vote.
Much like other free trade agreements passes in recent years, this one contains no provisions that will properly protect labor and human rights. Worker conditions in Oman are currently very poor and Oman prohibits unions and collective bargaining (while more or less permitting forced labor and human trafficking). Of course, enforceable labor rights are a crucial part of ensuring that American workers won't be disadvantaged by unfair competition from countries that don't adhere to these core standards - but that's the idea. The only people that win from trade agreements like these are the multinational corporations that benefit from the cheap labor, not workers here or abroad. But unfortunately, the Republican majority now in control of Congress is all but controlled by them now.
And while it's bad enough to propose and support another trade agreement that would shift more jobs overseas, there's another, much more hypocritical side to this.
Remember the Dubai Ports World fiasco and how the Republicans opposed the Bush administration when it quickly turned necesarry for their own political survival? This agreement gives Oman (a neighbor of the United Arab Emirates, home of Dubai Ports World) of the and foreign companies incorporated in Oman the right to own and operate important and sensitive infrastructure in the United States, including our ports (the U.S. Trade Representative's office acknowledged the Oman pact could allow an Omani company to perform such "landside" port functions as operation and maintenance of docks, loading and unloading of vessels and ship cleaning.). And if such rules had been in place during the Dubai ports debacle, our government would have had to pay the Emir of Dubai tens of millions of U.S. tax dollars.
But where is the Republican outrage over this? Obviously this could potentially create the same situation as we had with Dubai Ports World, but only Democrats like Rep. John Murtha brought up the security issue and provided the majority of those who voted against the bill. Is it perhaps because it's more under the radar? Ah yes, that must be it. The Bush administration couldn't get away with the DPW deal, and it was unpopular Republicans couldn't not say anything. But they can get away with this, and it's clear the Republicans are willing to put aside homeland security concerns so they can pass another free trade deal that benefits their big business supporters.