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Measure Would Have U.S. Adopt Tougher Stand on Arab Boycott

June 11, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Congress is trying to prod the Bush administration into taking a more aggressive stand against the Arab League boycott of both Israel and companies that do business with it.

The Ways and Means trade subcommittee agreed Tuesday to amend a proposed trade bill to include a provision requiring the U.S. trade representative to do a country-by-country investigation of the boycott and the way it is implemented.

“The Arab boycott is having an adverse and unjustifiable effect on American companies,” Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) the amendment’s sponsor, said in a statement.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for Arab League countries to boycott our products, particularly after the United States defended so many Arab nations in the Gulf War.”

If the measure becomes law, the documentation it requires could be the impetus for legislation in other countries against compliance with what is known as the secondary Arab boycott, observed Will Maslow, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress and editor of its news-letter Boycott Report.

“This would help level the playing field,” said Jess hordes, Washington representative of the Anti-Defamation League.


While U.S. laws prohibiting compliance with the boycott have been a success, the Matsui measure “could help create unified polices among major trading countries to combat intrusive boycott requirements in commercial decisions” that are “inconsistent with free trade principles,” said Hordes.

ADL last week sent a letter to Secretary of State James Baker urging the seven leading industrialized nations to condemn the secondary boycott as incompatible with free trade, Hordes said.

Last year, the G-7 countries linked a condemnation of the boycott to a suspension of settlements in the Israeli-administered territories, a link pro-Israel groups protested as irrelevant and unfair.

The Matsui amendment commends the U.S. trade representative for including the Arab boycott for the first time in its 1992 annual report on foreign trade barriers that put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage.

But Masui said it was critical for the trade representative to analyze and identify the extent to which governments allow or encourage their companies to comply with Arab boycotts of U.S. companies.

It also calls for documentation on how countries blacklist companies and enforce the boycott.

Spokespersons for U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills had no comment on the amendment.

Congressional sources said the amendment is likely to remain in the bill after markup by the full Ways and Means Committee, which is expected within the next two weeks.

The bulk of the trade bill would require the administration to get tougher with countries that violate fair trade practices and persistently run big trade imbalances with the United States.

It looks increasingly likely that the House of Representatives will pass a trade bill this year, while odds are slimmer in the Senate.

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