WASHINGTON (May. 23)
President Bush is not expected to waive Jackson-Vanik Amendment trade sanctions against the Soviet Union when he meets with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev next week, Secretary of State James Baker indicated Wednesday.
Baker said the Soviets are not expected to meet the one condition for receiving most-favored-nation trade benefits from the United States: adoption of a new law codifying recent reforms in Soviet emigration policy.
When he was in Moscow last week, Baker said he was told that the Supreme Soviet would debate and vote on the law May 31, the day Bush and Gorbachev begin their talks.
But on Wednesday, he said he recently learned that the Supreme Soviet has again postponed action on the law. “I don’t know why they decided to delay the debate about it,” he said.
“We have always said that the passage of the emigration law by the Supreme Soviet was a precondition to the granting of MFN,” Baker said at a news conference at the White House.
“Right now we do not have the emigration legislation that we have been asking for and that we have been clearly stating was an absolute precondition to the granting of MFN,” he said.
Baker also said Bush probably would not sign a trade agreement at the summit, although there is no legal or technical prohibition to him signing one. “I am not ruling it in or out,” he said.
He said there would be no reason to sign an agreement, since it could not take effect without the Soviets receiving the trade benefits barred since 1975 by the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.
BALTIC CRACKDOWN A FACTOR
As Baker was holding his news conference, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry was concluding a two-day executive board meeting here, at which the delegates voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm its June 1989 position supporting a Jackson-Vanik waiver if Bush received “appropriate assurances” in four key areas.
One of the delegates voted against reaffirmation and one abstained.
The areas of the conference’s concern include Soviet easing of restrictions on those with alleged access to “state secrets” and “poor relatives” blocked from emigrating by family members needing their financial support.
Those two areas would be addressed directly by the new emigration law, said Martin Wenick, executive director of the conference, an umbrella group of 47 Jewish organizations.
He said a third area of concern, progress on cases involving long-term refuseniks, would not be legally required under the law, although he has seen language in the law’s preamble to that effect.
The National Conference does not take a position on whether Bush should sign the trade agreement, but it was told by Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) that it would be a “political” issue between Bush and the Senate.
The Senate recently approved a non-binding resolution urging Bush not to submit a trade agreement for ratification until the Soviet government eases up on its crackdown on the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are seeking independence.
“That political factor is out there,” Wenick quoted Mitchell as telling the group.
For his part, Baker would not confirm that Senate opposition was the reason why the trade agreement would likely not be signed.
DENIES PLANS TO RAISE QUOTA
Baker said that during the summit, the president will raise with Gorbachev “our continuing concern about the remaining refuseniks in the Soviet Union. He will also convey our growing fears about anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union,” the secretary said.
These were issues Baker raised in Moscow last week with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
Baker did not mention the request for direct flights between the Soviet Union and Israel. The Soviets have refused to institute an agreement for the flights, in an apparent attempt to case Arab pressure on Moscow to curb the large number of Soviet Jews arriving in Israel.
There were reports from Cairo on Wednesday that Bush had told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a telephone call that the United States would allow more Soviet Jews to come to the United States.
But Baker denied this. “It’s my understanding that the president did not offer to take in more Soviet Jews,” he said.
The secretary of state pointed out that the number of Soviet immigrants to the United States rose from 14,000 in 1988 to 50,000 in 1989. He said if the current trend continues, some 70,000 will be admitted this year.
That number includes the 50,000 Soviet refugees allowed to enter the country this fiscal years as refugees, as well as others allowed to enter under the attorney general’s parole and through normal immigration procedures.
In another development, Wenick of the National Conference said his group has requested to meet with Gorbachev during the summit, but has not received a response.