WASHINGTON (Sep. 8)
Two Jewish organizations differed today over whether the U.S. should extend for another year most favored nation status in its trade relations with Rumania which the Ford Administration supports. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations endorsed the Administration’s position but expressed disappointment that Rumania’s Jewish “emigration expectations have not been fulfilled.”
But the Center for Russian Jewry and the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry opposed continuance of the present waiver. They recommended a “conditional waiver” that would continue until the end of this year because “the Rumanians will surely need to give us more concrete assurances of improvement.”
Spokesmen for the Jewish organizations testified today before the Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade headed by Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D.Conn.). Waiver of emigration requirements under the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1975 is necessary with the consent of Congress before the MFN relationship can be extended. The House subcommittee on trade is also expected to hold hearings on the matter.
EMIGRATION FIGURES REVIEW PROPOSED
Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, president of the Conference of Presidents, representing 32 national Jewish organizations, said the Conference “appreciates the extensive rights” the Rumanian Jewish community enjoys “fully on a par with those accorded to her (Rumania’s) other minority groups.”
However, he noted a decline in the total number of Jews permitted to leave that country which, he said, “takes on dramatic proportions when measured against the flurry of departures during the months immediately preceding and following last year’s hearings on the basis of which the original waiver was approved.”
Therefore, Schindler said, the Conference of Presidents qualifies its endorsement of the waiver renewal “with the urgent request that emigration figures be kept under continuing review” and that “our government representatives bend every effort” to make certain that the objective of free emigration “be in fact attained.”
Jacob Birnbaum, national director of the Center for Russian Jewry and the SSSJ, observed that with the 1975 waiver of MFN legislation and President Ford’s assurances, “we might have expected a substantial expansion of emigration and a diminution of internal obstacles, instead of a steep decline and increased local difficulties. Consequently,” he said, “a straight-forward waiver at this time would seem hard to justify.”
Birnbaum also urged creation of a “systematic Congressional review mechanism” to monitor Rumanian emigration and “a more informed and frequent dialogue with the Rumanians” on emigration and harassment cases. He noted that Rumanian emigration to Israel is presently at the rate of about 2000 a year compared with 4000 in 1973 and 3700 in 1974.
The waiver was endorsed by Administration spokesmen appearing before the subcommittee. Milton F. Rosenthal, head of the U.S. section of the U.S.-Rumanian Economic Council, said it would benefit U.S. trade. But Reps. Edward I. Koch (D.NY) and Robert F. Drinan (D.Mass.) urged caution on the waiver.
Koch pointed out that on both human rights and emigration “the same sets of figures are leading to extremely different interpretations.” He called for “adequate answers” to questions in these areas from the Rumanian government. He said the Rumanian Ambassador, Nicolae Nicolae, has not yet replied to his questions. Drinan claimed that “the actions of the Rumanian government simply do not match its stated policies or its legal and moral obligations.”