Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Hired: April 2018
2018 fees: $50,000
NEW Supplemental (termination filing)
(June 1, 2018 – Dec. 31, 2018)
Akin Gump ceased to represent Oman in early November, according to the firm’s latest filing. Akin Gump was paid a total of $50,000 since being hired in April to lobby in favor of an exemption from President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, so far without success. The move leaves Oman without any lobbying representation in Washington.
Oman drops fight against Trump’s tariffs
Julian Pecquet is the Editor of Special Projects for Al-Monitor, where he supervises the award-winning Lobbying Tracker as well as managing long-form stories. Before that he covered the US Congress for Al-Monitor. Prior to joining Al-Monitor, Pecquet led global affairs coverage for the political newspaper The Hill.
Posted: September 11, 2019
Oman has abandoned its losing lobbying fight against President Donald Trump’s tariffs.
Along with fellow Gulf states Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the sultanate had hired representation last year to try to get an exemption from the president’s 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum. Oman paid Washington-based international law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld a total of $50,000 from the contract’s mid-April start date to its Nov. 6 termination, according to lobbying disclosures, less than half the $120,000 originally called for.
The contract, which was signed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, called on Akin Gump to “provide counsel regarding efforts to obtain an exemption from Section 232 tariffs” and “conduct outreach to US government officials.” Disclosure forms reveal just one May 2018 telephone call, to National Economic Council Clete Willems — who has since joined the firm. Meanwhile, one of Akin Gump’s two former agents on the account, Justin McCarthy, continues to lobby on Section 232 issues for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Washington.
The tariffs come as Oman, like many of its neighbors, is trying to diversify its economy away from oil. The government has notably sought to bolster its steel and aluminum sector in recent years amid growing demand in the region, investing $5 billion to turn the industrial port city of Sohar into a major steel producer. Oman accounted for 1.6% of US aluminum imports in 2018 (import value: $279.4 million), according to the Congressional Research Service, up 186.3% over 2017.
Even without Akin Gump’s help, Oman remains well equipped to make its case for free trade: Muscat’s ambassador to Washington, Hunaina al-Mughairy, previously served as director of industrial loans and grants at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and as director general at the Omani Center for Investment Promotion and Export Development. In a May interview with Al-Monitor, she called for an end to the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar and closer economic ties within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
“We had achieved a lot in the GCC: We use our identity cards to travel throughout; we have a customs union, etc.,” she said. “But I can’t see that working now that there is a blockade with one of the countries.”
In addition to its role as a go-between among the Gulf rivals, Oman has long served as a trusted backchannel for talks with Iran. The Trump administration reportedly relied on the sultanate to send a message to Iran in June that strikes were imminent in retaliation for the downing of a US drone and to call for talks.
Muscat has also recently stepped up its diplomatic role in Yemen and is opening an embassy in the West Bank. The outreach has caught the Trump administration’s attention, with the Wall Street Journal reporting late last month that US diplomats want to hold direct talks with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Oman.
Before the Trump tariffs, the government of Oman had last lobbied more than a decade ago, hiring Baker Donalson from 2005 to 2007 to help conclude a Free Trade Agreement. The deal entered into force on Jan. 1, 2009.
No active lobbying
Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018
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