President Ford, in signing the Trade Reform Act into law, Friday, expressed “reservations about the wisdom of legislative language that can only be seen as objectionable and discriminatory by other sovereign states.” Many of the act’s provisions, he said, “are complex and may well prove difficult to implement.” However, he declared that “in the spirit of cooperation with the Congress, I will do my best to work out any necessary accommodations.”
Some among the 200 governmental leaders and others at the White House ceremony thought the President was referring to the Jackson-Vanik Amendment embodied in the law that calls for easing of Soviet emigration for Jews and others in return for U.S. trade benefits and credits. But Jewish leaders present interpreted his words as bearing on the restrictions imposed by Congress on loans to the Soviet Union by the Export-Import Bank that relates to the trade act.
Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev attacked the amendment shortly before Ford met him in Vladivostock in December. Late last month, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, in a letter to Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger denied assurances on emigration that Kissinger had given to Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash).
Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Stanley Lowell, president of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, both warmly welcomed the new legislation in conversations with newsmen at the White House. “We are very happy the Jackson Amendment is now law,” Lowell told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He pointed out that Ford at a meeting with Jewish leaders two weeks ago was asked not to waive the restrictions on most favored nation trade treatment and credits to the Soviet government until “he felt the purposes of the act for freer emigration were carried out.”
The president’s reservations at the signing, Lowell said, referred to the Export-Import Bank legislation that forbids the U.S. government from lending the Soviet government more than $300 million over the next four years without Congressional consent.
Rabbi Miller, expressing himself similarly with regard to the President’s reservations, pointed out to JTA that the President himself helped work out the trade law. “In general,” Rabbi Miller said, “this is a very positive day and can be historic.” The Soviet government, he added, now has the “obligation of living up to its assurances.” Soviet officials might “look for outs” and put in “all kinds of obstacles,” because of the Export-Import Bank limitations, Rabbi Miller cautioned. “We are going to be as tough as we possibly can. There is too much at stake.”
RESULTS DUE BETWEEN APRIL, JUNE
Under the Jackson-Vanik measure, the President is required to report to Congress at the end of 18 months on how Soviet practices on emigration conform to Soviet assurances as set forth in the Kissinger letter to Jackson that no restrictions will be put on visa applications, and neither the applicants nor their families will be harassed.
First tangible results of the law and Soviet emigration are expected to come between April and June. Rabbi-Miller said that he looked for the results in four or five months. The State Department indicated that the effects would be soon, within 90 days. The president himself, in his signing statement, said that the implementation of the law would come by “this summer.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.