WASHINGTON (Jul. 9)
The leader of 3B Jewish organizations today recommended that the United States continue granting most favored-nation trade status to Rumania.
In written testimony presented to the House Ways and Means subcommittee on trade, Jack Spitzer, president of B’nai B’rith International and representing the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that although the leaders were concerned about the steady decrease in Jewish emigration from Rumania since 1975, they were giving “an unqualified endorsement” of the extension of MFN to the East European nation. Hearings on MFN for Rumania are due to start July 19.
Spitzer explained in a cover letter to subcommittee chairman Rep. Charles A. Vanik (D. Ohio) that the endorsement was made “on the strength of understandings between the Conference of Presidents and the Rumanian government” which may resolve the problem of Jewish emigration “once and for all.”
Rumania was granted most-favored-nation status four years ago by Congress in anticipation that emigration from Rumania would become freer. “It was given with the advice of the State Department to let Rumania’s actual performance on emigration substitute for the formal assurances called for” in the Trade Reform Act, Spitzer said.
“Regrettably, Jewish emigration to Israel has gone from 3700 in 1974 — the last full year before MFN — to 2400 in 1975, 220o in 1976, 1500 in 1977 and 1200 in 1978. Emigration thus far this year is running at approximately half of last year’s rate.” Spitzer said Rumania’s explanations for this decrease “have not fully resolved our questions.”
The B’nai B’rith president pointed out that the Jewish emigration issue has been “the single exception to an otherwise positive picture of Rumanian policy toward both Jews and the State of Israel.” He pointed out that the Rumanian Jewish community “enjoys considerable religious, cultural and communal freedoms, and Rumanian foreign policy, particularly with respect to the Middle East, has been a courageously independent one.”
Not only is Rumania alone among the Eastern Bloc countries in maintaining “friendly and productive relations” with Israel but Rumania’s President (Nicolae) Ceaucescu “was a major catalyst behind the Israeli Egyptian peace process.” Nevertheless, Spitzer said, because of the emigration experience, the Conference of Presidents had been reluctant to recommend another extension of MFN.
“Happily however, recent developments have given us substantial reason to make a positive recommendation,” Spitzer explained. “We have received concrete assurances from the Rumanian government — assurances which have been shared with, and endorsed by, the Department of State — that, in the spirit of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, will hopefully remove remaining impediments to the freedom of Jews to emigrate…. It is on this basis that we can now give our endorsement to renewal of most-favored-nation status for Rumania.”