Carter Signs Anti-boycott Bill; Says It Could Be Model to End ‘divisiveness’ in Middle East

President Carter today signed into law the anti-boycott law and hailed the consultations among Americans that successfully led to it as a “model” to end divisiveness in the Middle East.

The signing ceremony took place with unusual elaborateness in bright sunshine in the Rose Garden of the White House with the prime Administration officials, leaders of Jewish national organizations, Business Roundtable corporate executives and Congressmen prominently identified with the new law present. The bill had been overwhelmingly adopted by the House and Senate.

“This cooperative effort between the business community, Jewish leaders, Congress and the Executive branch can serve as a model for what can be accomplished in even more difficult areas, when reasonable people agree to sit down together in goodwill and good faith,” the President said. “I am confident that the divisive issues in the Middle East which give rise to current boycotts can be resolved equally satisfactorily through a similar process of reasonable, peaceful cooperation.”

Recalling he had described boycotts and discrimination against American businessmen on religious or ethnic grounds “a profound moral issue from which we should not shrink,” Carter added: “My concern about foreign boycotts stemmed, of course, from our special relationship with Israel, as well as from the economic, military and security needs of both our countries. But the issue also goes to the very heart of free trade between all nations.”

PLEDGES ENFORCEMENT

In concluding his statement by pledging his Administration “will now effectively enforce this important legislation,” the President added extemporaneously that “I am confident enforcement will help lessen tensions in the Middle East and hopefully lead to permanent peace in that troubled region.”

Carter then went among the approximately 150 assembled guests witnessing the signing and exchanged remarks with them. Vice-President Walter Mondale, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, National Security Affairs advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and other officials also chatted with the numerous witnesses.

Organizations represented at the White House included the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress which negotiated with the Business Roundtable on the legislation. Also represented were the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, said in a prepared statement that while the new law “affirms the determination of the American people to defend American principles of free trade and freedom from discrimination” the effort will be “incomplete unless the United States is joined by other nations similarly committed to the principles.”

PROHIBITS MOST FORMS OF COMPLIANCE

A fact sheet on the new law issued by the White House said that “the legislation will prohibit most forms of compliance with unsanctioned foreign boycotts without unnecessarily jeopardizing U.S. political and commercial interests in the Middle East.” It also pointed out that “U.S. persons receiving boycott-related requests” are required to report them to the Secretary of Commerce and that “such reports will continue to be required to be mode publicly available except for certain business confidential information.” The legislation, which will be enforced by the Department of Commerce, preempts foreign boycott laws enacted by state legislatures. A half dozen states had enacted laws in advance of the present federal law.

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