Romania Won’t Seek MFN Status, but Says Emigration to Continue

Romania, whose human rights practices have come under fire from the Reagan administration and Congress, has decided not to seek renewal of its most-favored-nation trade status under the Jackson-Vanik. Amendment, the State Department announced Friday.

But State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said the Romanian government "has authoritatively stated to us that it will continue to allow emigration for family reunification purposes without relation to economic ties with the United States."

Oakley welcomed that commitment and said "this concern will continue to be a central part of the U.S.-Romanian dialogue."

Neither Oakley nor a spokesman for the Romanian Embassy provided a reason for Romania’s decision, but a senior U.S. official recently described U.S. views toward Romania’s MFN status in briefing reporters before Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead’s visit to Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.

The official said that "Romania would very much regret losing MFN. It would represent something over $100 million of trade, which is very important to Romania, their economy being as bad as it is."

"They would also suffer the embarrassment of being removed from the list by the United States. That is a public slap in the face."

But the official said the United States has "not been very successful" in prodding Romania to improve its human rights situation and "I do not know whether we really will be very successful in the future."

SYNAGOGUE THREATENED

He mentioned various examples of religious repression in Romania, citing "a central synagogue in Romania that is threatened with being destroyed by the government in the name of redevelopment."

The State Department’s recently released report on human rights practices throughout the world during 1987 noted that while emigration increased in 1987, Romania’s "human rights abuses remain pervasive."

Both houses of Congress last year passed amendments to the trade bill that would suspend MFN status to Romania for six months. That amendment was dropped Thursday during House-Senate negotiations to draft a final version of that bill.

Each year when renewal has come up, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has backed continuing MFN status.

Last June, Morris Abram, the conference chairman, wrote to all 100 senators expressing the conference’s "strong support" of MFN status for Romania.

NEXT STORY