Kreps: U.S. Trade to Boycott Nations Went Up Despite Anti-boycott Law

American exports to the boycotting countries of the Middle East are up 12 percent over what they were a year ago despite enactment of the American anti-boycott law, according to Secretary of Commerce Juanita Kreps.

“When the law was first enacted in 1977,” she told the American Jewish Congress at a dinner honoring her, “there were some who predicted that it would have disastrous impact on our trade. There were some who said that this nation could not afford to stand up for what was right because the economic cost would be too high. They were wrong.” She spoke in accepting the 1978 Stephen Wise Award of the AJCongress “for extraordinary public service.” She was honored as the first economist and the first woman to hold the position of Commerce Secretary.

In her address Kreps noted that in addition to higher U.S. exports to Arab states that boycott Israel and bar trade with the U.S. firms that trade with Israel, major Arab countries have made “signif- icant changes” in their boycott requirements. “Few Arab states still insist on explicit agreements to comply with the boycott,” she said, “and boycott questionnaires are less and less often required. Over and over again, we are told that U.S. companies, backed by the authority of U.S. law, are able to resist boycott demands and yet secure business.”

While conceding that “difficulties do exist” and “some business transactions have surely failed because of the inability to comply with boycott demands,” Kreps said she was convinced “that if we stand firm, if we insist–while respecting the sovereignty of other nations–on the right to protect our own…if we insist that business without principle is business not worth having, then we will be successful.”

Kreps, whose department is responsible for enforcing the anti-boycott provisions of the Export Administration Act, praised the American Jewish community and the American business community for working together last year in drawing up an anti-boycott bill acceptable to both groups. She called that cooperation “a remarkable display of responsibility and citizenship, an exercise without precedent in American political life.”

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