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Commerce Dep’t Discloses 38 U.S. Firms Participating in Boycott

The Department of Commerce made public yesterday the names of 38 American firms, that have acknowledged participation in the Arab boycott in reports filed with the Department since Oct. 7. There were 59 reports in all open for inspection.

The disclosures were ordered by President Ford on Oct. 7, a day after he had promised such a move during his foreign policy debate with Democratic Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. The President, however, did not make his order retroactive to firms that had reported boycott compliance prior to Oct. 7 on the understanding that their information would remain confidential.

At the Commerce Department, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was told that there is no U.S. law which forbids American firms from complying with “economic types” of boycott but that discriminatory action such as those involving race, religion or sex of Americans in international trade is prohibited.

Although the Export Administration Act no longer is applicable, since Congress was unable to pass new legislation extending it in view of the maneuvering by Sen. John Tower (R.Tex.), the Commerce Department is operating under Ford’s executive order which in turn is based on the “Trading With the Enemy” Act. Commerce officials were unable to explain how the legalities of that act will be successfully used against companies that violate any federal law.

Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Elliot Richardson was directed today by a Congressional committee to bring documentation on the Arab boycott to a hearing tomorrow morning at the Rayburn Building. The hearing was ordered by the government operations committee headed by Rep. Jack Brooks (D.Tex.). Rep. Robert Drinan (D.Mass.) was reported by his office as coming from Massachusetts to question Richardson on the actions of the U.S. firms. Four of the 38 named yesterday are from the Boston area.

REVEAL ROLE OF AID IN BOYCOTT

In a related development, the Cox newspaper chain reported yesterday that the White House has promised to investigate reports that the Agency for International Development (AID), a U.S. government agency, had inserted boycott related questions in a form used to solicit bids from U.S. construction firms seeking contracts from Arab countries.

According to the report, AID complied with demands from Kuwaiti officials to include in the forms it prepared, these questions: “Have you undertaken…any consultation works in or for Israel and, if so, when? Are you still undertaking such works? Do you have associations with any consulting office in Israel and do you think it is likely that you will have such an association in the future?” An AID official, J. David McVoy, reportedly acknowledged that the form was sent to a rehabilitations and engineering companies around the world.

The firms named yesterday by the Commerce Department include leading American banks, manufacturing companies and freight forwarders, all involved in exporting to Arab countries. In all cases, boycott compliance consisted of affirmations to Arab customers that the goods shipped were not of Israeli origin, contained no Israeli materials and were carried in non-Israeli ships that did not call at Israeli ports.

None of the companies reported secondary boycott demands, such as refusing to deal with other American companies that trade with Israel, are Jewish owned or have Jews in top management positions. Some said they trade with Israel.

The Arab places of destination listed on the Commerce Department forms were Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, Dubai, Muscat, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Bahrain. With the exception of Jordan and Egypt, all are Persian Gulf states.

The exporting and forwarding companies and the banks that processed letters of credit containing boycott compliance provisos included: General Electric Medical Systems Co., Milwaukee, Wisc.; James B, Beam Distillers Co., Chicago; Kayser-Roth International, New York; First City National Bank of Houston; Bank of America, San Francisco; Devcon Corp., Cambridge, Mass.; Citibank, Los Angeles; The Chartered Bank of London; Air Express International, Los Angeles; and the First Wisconsin National Bank, Milwaukee.

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