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The Oman American Business Center (OABC) organized its Biennial General Meeting at the Sundus Rotana to review its progress over the past two years and to provide attendees with a unique networking opportunity. Welcoming OABC company members, VIPs from the Oman business community, and representatives from the U.S. Embassy, the event on December 9th concluded with OABC’s biennial Board of Directors election. A host of new and returning board members were elected, including some of the Sultanate’s most accomplished private sector executives and entrepreneurs.

During the OABC’s elections, 7 members of the center were elected to serve on the board. Four members maintained ex-officio or permanent seats including Ali Daud, Chairman and Co-founder of the OABC;  Emmee Haun, Co-founder of the OABC; Fouad Eid, Vice-President of the OABC; and Andrew Barwig, Commercial Officer at the US Embassy in Muscat.

The seven members welcomed to the Board of Directors included Bill Crew, Founder and CEO of Inspired Solutions; Girish Chawla, CEO of Tawoos Power and Telecom LLC; Marla Valdez, Head of Office and Partner at Clyde & Co in Oman, acting in association with Fatma Al Mamari Advocacy and Legal Consultancy Firm; Paul Murphy, General Manager of the Grand Hyatt Muscat; Shayan Sumar, Co-founder and Marketing Manager of Apex Transgulf Manufacturing; Talal al Subhi, Executive Director of Rohn International Products Arabia; and Vairali Mehta, Chief Operating Officer at Muscat Pharmacy.


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“Since our last General Meeting, the OABC has joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as its official affiliate (AmCham) in Oman and has also built up its regional relationships with other AmChams and partners greatly expanding our network as a business organization,” commented Mr. Daud. “We have taken our mission of fostering business between Oman and the United States very seriously and are glad to see an increase in exports from both nations through the opportunities provided by the Oman-US Free Trade Agreement.”

Mr. Daud continues “Data published by the US Department of Commerce shows that American trade exports to the Omani market totalled around $2.415 billion last year, up from $1.984 billion in 2017. Omani exports escalated to $1.275 billion last year, up from $1.066 billion in 2017.  For the past 15 years, the OABC has been a platform providing information and connections for those involved in the Oman-U.S. business.  We’ve witnessed and helped nurture the burgeoning commercial ties that bind our two countries, fulfilling our role as a gateway to better understanding opportunities and partnerships.”

Fouad Eid, Vice President of the OABC, also commented, saying, “As a professional membership organization, the OABC has experienced significant growth in the past 2 years, despite challenging times for many businesses. We find that now, more than ever, companies from SMEs to large corporates are signing up for membership and seeking out events where they can network and build strong relationships in the Oman business community. We are delighted to report that total membership in the organization is up 27%, bringing the total number of member companies to 165.

Rebecca Olson, Executive Director of the OABC, stated: “The combination of new executives constantly joining the organization, together with the commitment of our long-time members, adds vibrancy to our networking and knowledge-sharing events, as well as new opportunities for all.”

The OABC also announced its new mobile app at the event.  The app will host exclusive offers on B2B services only available to members of the organization.  It will also allow member companies to advertise to high-level executives and promote their events, programs, and initiatives throughout OABC’s full network of business leaders and professionals.
A key reference point for SMEs, entrepreneurs, and business executives, the OABC was founded to maintain the strong economic bonds between business communities in the Sultanate and the USA. The OABC has grown more than threefold over the last several years and has risen to become one of the Sultanate’s most active business groups with around 30 events annually. In addition to a wide variety of benefits set to be introduced later this year, the OABC has organized a number of highly informative seminars since its last BGM, including the ‘Oman’s Evolving Legislative and Tax Landscape’ and the Renewable Energy Series, among other events.
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After Oman and the US announced a new scheme which allows the citizens of both the countries to get ten-year multiple-entry visas replacing the earlier system where the visas were valid for only two years, Omanis and Americans alike have welcomed the decision saying it will further boost trade relations and open up more opportunities between the two countries.

While Omanis have been getting ten-year visas since January this year, US citizens started getting the same from last week onwards. In remarks to Muscat Daily, Rebecca Olson, executive director Oman American Business Center (OABC), said, “As the international affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce in Oman, the Oman American Business Center is pleased with this move to further facilitate trade and commercial development between the US and the sultanate.

“Many of our members often travel back and forth and this will make things easier for all. There are still many opportunities for those who wish to take advantage of the US-Oman Free Trade Agreement, which will continue to benefit both nations after this ten-year mark.”

As Oman’s free trade agreement with the US marks ten years, the move is a complementary step towards good relations.
Talal al Subhi, executive director of Rohn Products International Arabia, said, “The new system will obviously bring more businesses between both the countries. It is a good move because before we used to get visas every two years but now we will do so once in ten years.”

However, Subhi informed that even though the visa is issued and valid for ten years, entry to the US is not fully guaranteed as a few questions will be asked at immigration there.

“First-timers need to understand that entry is not guaranteed even if they have visas and the entry is subject to the approval of immigration officers at the port of entry who will ask a few questions,” he said.

Subhi and his American partners in tower manufacturing plant in Sohar have suggested that Oman Air should start direct flights to the US.

“Oman Air should consider starting direct flights to two or three cities in the US and this will boost further the businesses between both countries. And by having direct Oman Air flights, this means there would be counters to cater to the vetting of travelers from Oman and in case of anything, they would be informed before departing to the US,” he said.

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Rhon is one of the American Omani partnership companies and has set up 10,000 towers. It has also constructed the tallest tower in Oman at a height of 279m.

Marla Valdez, an American lawyer based in Oman, said, “I believe this new ten-year visa extension is a significant milestone in the longstanding relationship between the US and Oman and a development that should further extend the bilateral cooperation at many levels.”

She added, “As a board member of the Oman American Business Center, as well as being both a US citizen and an Oman resident, I obviously feel very proud of this achievement. I am confident that it will encourage tourism and business between the two countries, and that it will lead to other positive measures going forward.”

Mundhir al Alawi, who fell in love with American donuts during his studies in the US, and later founded 3rd Street Donuts in Muscat, said, “I travel to the US three times a year and this move is great and our travels to the US are now hassle-free. The move will enhance many other business opportunities. It will be a complement to the free trade agreement with the US.”

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The Oman American Business Center (OABC) hosted its annual Ramadan art exhibition and Iftar in honor of Adatee Hyattee,a Omani group of artists with disabilities. Sponsored by Boeing Middle East, this event is an annual initiative focused on encouraging diversity, understanding and inclusion between communities.

Approximately 100 guests attended, including OABC members, business executives, Omani artists, and US Ambassador Marc Sievers. The event provided a networking platform within an artistic and creative environment. The talented men and women shared their personal journey of pain, hope and inspiration through an impressive display of over 30 works of art.

Rebecca Olson, Executive Director of OABC said, “The Annual Iftar is a favorite event for many OABC members because of the spirit of thankfulness and respect present in the community during the month of Ramadan. Spending time with the artists, seeing their work, and enjoying a meal together creates a space for more than just business networking. We thank each artist who attended, as well as OABC Corporate Member since 2016, Boeing Middle East, for their annual sponsorship of this very memorable event.”

Bernard Dunn, president of Boeing Middle East, North Africa and Turkey said: “Boeing is extremely proud to be a member of the OABC and to spend the evening with Adatee Hyattee and their beautiful art. We know that uniting communities and bringing diverse groups together in an inclusive environment, is essential to the betterment of the global community and economy. We will continue our support for initiatives that build bridges and empower communities here in Oman.”

The OABC not only prioritizes bringing the business community together, but values the participation and involvement from local members of the community, in order to provide its members with new and authentic experiences. Through this year’s event, attendees were able to appreciate more than the artwork on display— they were also given an opportunity to focus on the artists’ own determination; creating opportunity out of their personal struggles.

Find more photos here.

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Over 130 members and guests enjoyed the OABC’s largest-ever Taco Tuesday at the Deputy Chief of Mission‘s Residence on April 16th. Ms. Stephanie Hallett graciously hosted the annual event. In her opening remarks, the DCM discussed the Embassy’s connection with the OABC and the growth of the OABC over the past year.

The Kempinski Hotel Muscat generously supplied the tacos and a team of expert chefs, as well as 5 raffle vouchers for lucky members. Other sponsors included Oman United Agencies, Häagan-Dazs Oman (what a hit!), Grand Hyatt Muscat (margarita machine), Sundus Rotana Muscat, Al Falaj Hotel – Muscat, Travel Point Oman (raffling off a one-day luxury yacht rental!), Muscat Pharmacy, Casa Yoga Oman, and BombaBurrito, who generously donated a surprise for all: every attendee present won a “Meal for two voucher” at Bomba Burrito in Muzn Mall.

Thank you to all who attended and especially to our host and sponsors.

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Dozens of OABC members came to Mumtaz Mahal on March 17 for a drop in business lunch with the OABC team.  OABC Premium Member Asha Enterprises LLC sponsored the event, which showcased the restaurant’s fantastic views and delicious lunch options. Rebecca Olson, Executive Director, and Meruyert Shagmanova, Corporate Coordinator handed out this new document and explained benefits to members.  Attendees enjoyed networking outdoors on the patio and left with a better idea of how to access their benefits and connect further with the organization.

Thank you again to Asha Enterprises LLC and Mumtaz Mahal’s team for a lovely lunch!  If you missed it, remember, OABC members receive 15% off the total bill at both Mumtaz Mahal and Woodlands.
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The procedural law of all Omani-seated arbitrations is Royal Decree No. 47/1997 (as amended) promulgating the Civil and Commercial Disputes Arbitration Law (the Arbitration Law).  This is a detailed law substantially based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Arbitration.  Below, we summarize some of the important provisions of the Arbitration Law.

The arbitration agreement

Arbitration agreements must be, or deemed to be, in writing.  A record signed by two parties or contained in messages or telegrams, or other means of written communication exchanged by the two parties may constitute an arbitration agreement. Failure to do so will lead to the invalidity of the arbitration agreement.  Parties entering into an arbitration agreement must have sufficient capacity to enter into it.  Arbitration clauses are usually agreed amongst the contracting parties in their contract and relate to future disputes.  They are considered as independent agreements and are unaffected by the invalidity, revocation or termination of the main contract.  Parties may always enter into a submission agreement for present disputes.  Submission agreements are generally more detailed as opposed to arbitration clauses.

The existence of an arbitration agreement constitutes a defence on the part of the respondent if a claimant submits a claim before Omani courts. The respondent must raise the existence of the arbitration agreement before it submits its defence.  Failure to do so will lead to the Omani courts assuming jurisdiction to hear a dispute amongst the parties, despite the existence of the arbitration agreement.

The Tribunal

In their arbitration agreement, parties must agree whether one arbitrator or more will hear a dispute amongst them, which must always be an odd number.  The Arbitration Law sets the default number of arbitrators to three in the absence of party agreement to the contrary.  The Arbitration Law sets out the requirements an arbitrator must possess, including the default procedure for the appointment of an arbitrator in the absence of the parties’ agreement.

The Arbitral Procedure

Generally, parties have the freedom to agree on the procedure(s) to be adopted by the Tribunal.  Natural justice principles, such as the right to a fair hearing and the rule against bias must be applied.  Parties must be treated equally and each one of them must be given an equal and full opportunity to present its claim.

The arbitration process is deemed to have commenced on the date the respondent receives the notice of arbitration from the claimant, unless the parties agree on a different date.  The default language of the arbitral procedure is Arabic, unless the parties agree otherwise.  It is international good practice for the parties and the arbitrator(s) to hold a procedural hearing at the outset of the arbitration to agree on all procedural matters relating to the arbitral procedure, including the timetable for the submission of pleadings, hearing dates, etc.  It is important for the parties to agree on the procedure otherwise the default provisions of the Arbitration Law will apply which may not always be in the best interests of the parties.

The Award

The default timeframe under the Arbitration Law for the Tribunal to issue a final award is twelve months from the date the arbitration procedure commenced, unless the parties agree otherwise.  Failure to comply with the timeframe, whether agreed between the parties or under the default provisions of the Arbitration Law, entitles either party to approach Omani courts to either extend the timeframe for rendering a final award or terminate the proceedings.

Awards are passed by majority of votes if the dispute is heard by more than one arbitrator.  During the arbitral process, Tribunals may issue a number of awards all of which are considered as final on the issues each award determines.  Alternatively, a final award may be issued resolving all claims (and counterclaims, if any) submitted to arbitration.  Issued awards must satisfy the formalities set out in the Arbitration Law.

Risk of invalidity of an award and enforcement

Unlike in litigation proceedings, the losing party has limited recourse to challenge an award.  Article 53 of the Arbitration Law lists the grounds an award may be set aside.  The losing party may submit an application to the court to set aside the award within ninety days of the date the award was notified to the losing party.

The winning party may commence enforcement procedures of an award after the period of ninety days mentioned above has expired, subject to the winning party satisfying the formalities set out in the Arbitration Law.  An award issued in Oman may be enforced in any country which is a signatory of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958) and in which the losing party has assets.

Role of Omani Courts in Omani-seated arbitrations

The role of Omani Courts in Omani-seated arbitrations is limited and it is mostly supportive and supervisory.  Omani Courts may interfere in Omani-seated arbitrations in the following instances:

  • Stay of court proceedings
  • Temporary or preventive measures
  • Appointment of the Arbitral Tribunal
  • Where the arbitral procedure is contravened
  • Challenge to the Tribunal’s jurisdiction
  • Impossibility to perform tasks or Tribunal’s failure to undertake tasks
  • Enforcement of orders
  • Failure of witness(es) to attend hearings when ordered
  • Tribunal’s failure to issue the award within the agreed time
  • Deposit of the award with the Secretariat of the Omani Courts
  • Invalidity claim
  • Enforcement of an award
  • Stay of enforcement proceedings
  • Challenge of an order rejecting enforcement of an award

The author is Maria Mariam Petrou, Senior Associate at SASLO.

SASLO is a pre-eminent law firm in Oman, providing legal services to the local and international business community since being founded by Said Al Shahry in 1992. The firm prides itself in representing a prestigious clientele, whether they operate locally or globally and whether they are market leaders or smaller firms. It remains the only Muscat based law firm with well-established branch offices in Salalah, the capital of the fast developing Dhofar Governorate in the south of the country, and Sohar, the industrial hub of the Batinah coast.

SASLO is a full service commercial law firm, and thus offers the full spectrum of commercial law services meeting the requirements of commerce and industry. These requirements range across: corporate transactions for both private and listed companies; financing and security transactions for banks, airlines, shipping companies, developers, manufacturing companies and others; infrastructure projects; the full range of commercial agreements; and dispute resolution, arbitration and litigation services. These services are provided through SASLO’s two principal departments, Company/Commercial and Dispute Resolution, which are supported by strong administrative departments. SASLO is unique in offering a blend of highly experienced senior Omani and foreign lawyers with extensive local and international expertise.

The Oman American Business Center (OABC) recently hosted its annual Ramadan Iftar Dinner, sponsored by Boeing Middle East. Held at the Kempinski Hotel, the Iftar welcomed members of Adatee Hyattee, a Omani group of artists with various physical disabilities, and included an art exhibition of work created by local disabled artists.  The exhibition and Iftar are part of OABC’s continuing efforts to promote understanding and build bridges between communities.

Ali Daud, president of OABC said, “The Oman American Business Center was honored to host an Iftar dinner for members and guests, together with our partners at Boeing Middle East and Adatee Hyattee. We have been inspired by the art on display and by the skilled work of some of Oman’s most vibrant artists. Often as business people, we easily forget the importance of taking a break from our day-to-day busy lives, and the need to enjoy art, culture, and relating to members of our community face to face.”

He added, “We’d like to thank Boeing Middle East for their generous sponsorship of this Iftar. The company has always looked to highlight and support local partners, as they do throughout the GCC. We would also like to thank US Ambassador Marc Sievers for his constant support of the OABC and for joining us tonight.”

The event welcomed OABC members, executives, Omani artists, and distinguished guests including US Ambassador Sievers, and Bernie Dunn, President of Boeing Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. In collaboration with one another, Boeing and OABC sponsored 25 easels for the artists to display their work, in hopes of inspiring its Iftar guests through the power of the human spirit, creativity, and art.

Bernard Dunn, President of Boeing Middle East, North Africa and Turkey shared some words with attendees: “Boeing is extremely proud to be members of the OABC and we are excited to be part of this important initiative to spend time with inspiring artists that have not let their circumstances limit their creativity.”

Afrah Al Naabi, a member of the artists’ group, spoke briefly about her challenges in education and daily life following a terrible car accident during her teenage years.  She described how family, art, and the Adatee Hyattee community gave her new opportunities, meaning and hope amidst great struggle.

With over 140 guests in attendance, the OABC’s 26th event of the season was buzzing with activity and business networking. Still, the OABC not only prioritizes bringing the business community together, but values the participation and involvement from local members of the community, in order to provide its members with new and authentic experiences. Through this year’s event, attendees were able to appreciate more than the artwork on display— they were also given an opportunity to focus on the artists’ own determination; creating opportunity and beauty out of their personal struggles.

Over 25 companies came to the Oman American Business Center’s special tour of Maharat Academy on April 4th.  Members and guests of the OABC were able to tour each part of the institute, meet instructors, and learn about the very unique and beneficial “Apprenticeship Program” currently underway in various disciplines.