Shamir Joins Farm Lobby in Urging Waiver of Jackson-vanik Sanctions
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Shamir Joins Farm Lobby in Urging Waiver of Jackson-vanik Sanctions

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Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir added his voice Sunday to those calling on President Bush to consider waiving U.S. trade sanctions against the Soviet Union as a reward for the large number of Soviet Jews being allowed to emigrate.

Israel is "happy" some 150,000 Jews have arrived from the Soviet Union this year, Shamir said on the CBS-TV program "Face the Nation."

"We are grateful to the Soviet Union, we are grateful for this change of their policy, for allowing these people to come now," he said.

"I think for this reason it is time to suspend for a year or so the Jackson-Vanik Amendment in such a way to facilitate trade relations between Soviet Russia and the United States," he said.

The National Conference on Soviet Jewry issued a statement last week also urging Bush to grant a one-year waiver of sanctions contained in Jackson-Vanik. The amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 links U.S. most-favored-nation trade benefits for the Soviet Union with increased emigration.

The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews has opposed such a waiver at this time, contending that the Soviet Union should first codify promised emigration reforms and then prove that they have been implemented.


Shamir, who is scheduled to meet with Bush on Tuesday, is expected to ask for more U.S. help in absorbing the Soviet immigrants.

Speaking of Bush’s longtime commitment to the Soviet Jewish emigration movement, Shamir said, "It would be just for America to help this process," since "Israel alone cannot afford it."

The United States has already approved guarantees for $400 million in loans that Israel would use to build housing for the new immigrants. Shamir expressed confidence Sunday that the United States would find a way to provide additional assistance.

While the positions announced by Shamir and the National Conference may make it easier for Bush to waive Jackson-Vanik sanctions, the impetus to do so may have more to do with a desire to help U.S. farmers than anything else.

The Bush administration is currently considering such a waiver to allow Moscow to receive credits that would enable it to buy food, in order to help prevent possible starvation in the Soviet Union this winter. The Soviets need the credits since they do not have hard currency.

Up to now, Bush has maintained that he would not grant a waiver of the trade sanctions until the Kremlin adopts the long-promised emigration reform law.

The administration has been under heavy pressure to grant a waiver for the last year from wheat and grain farmers in the American Midwest, whose produce is selling at the lowest price in over a decade. They also fear they will lose sales to farmers from other countries that are granting credits to the Soviet Union.

At a Nov. 30 White House news conference, when Bush announced he was studying the possibility of a Jackson-Vanik waiver to help U.S. farmers, the president expressed astonishment that farmers would think he supports a grain embargo against the Soviet Union. "I’m one of the strongest proponents against a grain embargo," he said.

But at a hearing last week of the House Agriculture subcommittee on wheat, soybeans and feed grains, the president was accused of enforcing a "de facto grain embargo."

The hearing included testimony not only from representatives of farm groups, but from leaders of the National Conference and the Union of Councils, as well.


Although both Soviet Jewry umbrella groups have been testifying before congressional committees for two decades, this was the first time they had appeared before an agriculture committee.

"The Bush administration’s historic refusal to grant this waiver is causing American farmers to suffer through what they perceive to be a virtual grain embargo," said Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.), the subcommittee’s chairman.

"U.S. farmers are being forced to step aside and watch their foreign competitors, through the use of credits, meet Soviet food needs once met by them."

Glickman said he has long supported Soviet Jewry and has relatives seeking to emigrate from the USSR. But he said that the present increased level of emigration should be rewarded. The Bush administration should not "insist on technical compliance" with promises of legislation, "which may never happen," he said.

Both the National Conference and the Union of Councils told the subcommittee that they support providing the farm credits, but they differ sharply on a waiver of Jackson-Vanik sanctions.

A waiver for a year " would be fully consistent with the objectives of the legislation, which are to contribute to the goal of truly free emigration," Shoshana Cardin, chairwoman of the National Conference, told the subcommittee.

She said that by the end of the year, some 180,000 Soviet Jews will have emigrated, a figure that could double in 1991.

Pamela Cohen, president of the Union of Councils, told the subcommittee that for "humanitarian purposes, the UCSJ will not oppose a one-year waiver of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment."

But she said the president should not grant the Soviet Union tariff concessions or submit to the Senate the trade agreement signed last spring by Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, "until emigration legislation is passed."

"It is clear that Mr. Gorbachev can generate an acceptable emigration law if he chooses to make it a personal priority," Cohen argued.


But Cardin said that despite earlier optimism that the Supreme Soviet would quickly adopt the emigration law, it now appears that Gorbachev cannot push it through.

The National Conference has never linked a waiver to adoption of the emigration law, she said. "We have tied it to performance."

Up to now the Jackson-Vanik "was used as a stick" to force Soviet compliance with international human rights agreements. But now it can be "used as a carrot" to encourage further improvements, Cardin said.

Bush has indicated that some in his administration believe he has authority to make such an exception. But some experts on Jackson-Vanik believe that a waiver must include all credits and tariff restrictions covered by the legislation.

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