The GoGlobal Blog

So I Met the Ambassador

So I Met the Ambassador

The US ambassador gave a lecture this morning at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) – which is basically like the Harvard of Oman. The lecture was about the Free Trade Agreement that Oman has with the USA.

The Free Trade Agreement is a big deal for Oman. During negotiations the US insisted that if an FTA were to be made then conditions in the Sultanate needed to be on par with America. As a result the FTA contains passages addressing issues like labor rights, intellectual property guidelines, telecommunications, and business ethics. So Oman had to pay a price for it. In exchange for open access to the biggest consumer market in the world, Oman now has support institutions which police copyright infringement, ensure good working conditions, and bust-up monopolies. Additionally, competition for local Omani businesses has increased now that big American business conglomerates are given national status.

So naturally the FTA has the potential to be a hot topic – which is why the ambassador’s lecture was a disappointment. He is a career diplomat, which essentially means unconditional support for US policies. Absolutely no criticism whatsoever. It was cool to see the ambassador and everything, but the content of his remarks was pretty much unusable.

The reason I’m writing about this is because during this part of my program I am working on the famed Independent Study Project (ISP) – one of the cornerstones of SIT’s model. I basically have a month of no classes during which I choose a topic of interest to me and write a thirty page paper about it. The catch is that most of the research for the ISP is done by the student. Since I chose to do my ISP on manufacturing and exports, I’m interviewing people at the Ministry of Commerce, the Chamber of Commerce, and a variety of companies down at the Rusayl Industrial Park. SIT is all about qualitative research, meaning research that isn’t just all numbers – stuff that can only be studied by actually being in the country. So I thought the ambassador was gonna be an awesome source – but, like I guess any good US representative would, he stayed comfortably on the “absolutely no negatives with this” side.

Lesson: government representatives are awful primary sources.

On another note – I met a professor at SQU who is from Cleveland – rock on!

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