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Richardson: Would Consider Federal Sanctions Against U.S. Firms That Comply with the Arab Boycott

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Secretary of Commerce Elliot Richardson testified to a Congressional subcommittee today that he does not now regard public disclosure of American companies complying with the Arab boycott against Israel as being “counter-productive” and that he would “consider” federal government sanctions against American firms that comply with it.

Richardson testified before the House Government Operations Subcommittee on Commerce. Consumer and Monetary Affairs at a hearing called by its chairman. Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal (D.NY) Rosenthal pointed out that, in scheduling the hearing, the Commerce Department’s program “has already been criticized by businessmen who feel they have improperly been placed on the boycott list for only narrow, technical compliance with the boycott.”

The Department yesterday revealed the names of 38 companies which reported 59 boycott requests since Oct. 7 when President Ford’s directive took effect. A number of firms that were identified yesterday by the Commerce Department as having been approached by Arabs denied today that they had complied with boycott requests.

Richardson disclosed that he had, in a memorandum to Ford last spring, recommended administration approval of the Stevenson-Williams Senate bill requiring public disclosure but that it was rejected. He also said that he had orally urged a compromise on legislation on the basis of the Senate’s extension of the Export Administration Act which died Sept. 30.

WOULD ALLOW EXAMINATION OF INFORMATION

Under Rosenthal’s questioning. Richardson agreed to allow authorities of five states which now have anti-boycott laws to examine information supplied by American companies that continue to be considered confidential by the Commerce Department. This information includes kinds of goods and services provided by the exporter and their dollar value.

Richardson made this statement after Rosenthal read telegrams supporting disclosure from the Attorneys General of Illinois and Colorado. Richardson also said that he would advise other departments of government to adhere to the President’s directive regarding the boycott. Richardson noted, in his testimony, that some employes in the State Department and the Agency for International Development have not observed these directives.

President Ford’s “abrupt” change of Administration opposition to disclosure resulted from “evolutionary” developments, Richardson testified. He pointed to the activity in Congress and the views of American Jewish organizations opposing the boycott.

Ford, in his press conference today, said that his Administration has been the only Administration since the Arab boycott went into effect in 1952 to have taken action against it. He named Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon as having opposed the boycott, but he said they did not take action against it.

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