Richardson Insists New Legislation Not Needed to Combat Arab Boycott

The Ford Administration continued to reiterate late last week its opposition to Congressional legislation aimed at strengthening action against American firms complying with the Arab boycott against Israel. In testimony before the House international Relations Committee. Commerce Secretary Elliot L. Richardson said that the Administration opposes additional legislation “as being both untimely and unnecessary and potentially counter-productive.”

Richardson stressed that the Administration has already taken steps “to assure that the boycott is free of discrimination against United States citizens, to deal with secondary boycott practices that interfere with economic relations among domestic firms, and to seek diplomatic modification of the more objectionable manifestations of the boycott.” The Commerce Secretary said the only new legislation needed is the Administration-sponsored bill introduced by Rep. Edward Hutchinson of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. It is considered much weaker than other bills now before Congress.

DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS CALLED SUCCESSFUL

Richardson repeated Administration claims that “passage of legislation at this time might jeopardize our ability to continue to work effectively with Arab nations to achieve a just and permanent Mideast peace, which is after all, he added,” the only realistic way to end the Arab boycott of Israel.” He declared that the Administration “strongly” opposes and has prohibited compliance with boycott practices involving any discrimination against U.S. citizens. He said that during the period of October 1, 1975 through last March 31, the Commerce Department received about 14,200 boycott reports dealing with about 29,700 transactions. Of the 14,200 reports, six revealed boycott-related requests which would clearly discriminate against American citizens, he said, and several hundred additional reports revealed requests that goods not be marked with the Star of David.

Richardson said that while the Department had made a decision to treat such requests as discriminatory, diplomatic efforts to eliminate them had led to their “virtual elimination.” In addition, diplomatic efforts had brought elimination of other discriminatory requests. “The evidence thus far supports the view that the boycott is symptomatic of the Mideast conflict and that, in its current manifestations, it is not based on religious or ethnic criteria. Richardson said.

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