Apr 9, 2005 6:06 pm


U.S.: Key Cold War Legislation Still Plays Role In Trade
By Robert McMahon

The U.S. Congress passed the Jackson-Vanik amendment 31 years ago as a
measure aimed at permitting the emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union.
It was extraordinarily successful. But long after the collapse of the
Soviet Union it has remained in force for a number of former Soviet states,
preventing them from gaining permanent normal trade relations with
Washington. Its importance has resurfaced this month as U.S. and Ukrainian
officials move to strengthen ties. Ukraine appears ready to join a dozen
other former communist states freed from its restrictions.

Washington, 7 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Senator Henry Jackson and
Representative Charles Vanik sponsored their measure in 1974 as a response
to severe restrictions the Soviet Union had placed on the emigration of its

The Jackson-Vanik amendment conditioned certain trade benefits on criteria
related to free emigration from non-market economy countries. It proved
particularly effective in freeing up the emigration of Soviet Jews.

Most states have now met the free emigration criteria. The formal lifting
of the measure has become part of a rite of passage for reformist countries
of the former Soviet bloc.

The latest case up for serious review in the U.S. Congress is Ukraine.

President Viktor Yushchenko, addressing a joint session of Congress on
Wednesday, appealed for the lifting of the measure as

"Members of Congress, I'm calling on you to lift the Jackson- Vanik
amendment [applause], to make this step towards Ukraine. Tear down this
wall," Yushchenko said.

The United States routinely gives Ukraine and a number of other states
(including Belarus, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia,
Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) yearly waivers exempting them from the measure.
But these states still lack permanent normal trade relations, seen as
inhibiting foreign investment, long-term contracts, and membership in the
World Trade Organization.

The Baltic states, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and four Eastern European
states have been "graduated" out of the measure over the last 15 years.

There have been mounting calls to add Ukraine to this group. However, some
in the U.S. Congress have sought to maintain the measure as a lever to
improve Ukraine's performance in intellectual-property protection.
Similarly, Russia has sought normalized trade relations, but a dispute over
restrictions on U.S. chicken imports has stalled that initiative.

Some supporters of the Jackson-Vanik amendment are now calling for it to be
phased out.

One of them is Michael McFaul, a senior fellow and Russia expert at the
Hoover Institution, a research body based in the United States. He tells
RFE/RL the Jackson-Vanik amendment achieved its intended effect and has now
become distorted in practice:

"I think it is important to be tough on the Ukrainians on intellectual
property law that they do not enforce and on the Russians that have tariffs
that we think are unfair," McFaul says."But what I don't think is proper is
to link that to legislation that was designed for another purpose."

The measure is widely considered a great success. More than 1.5 million
Jews are estimated to have emigrated to the United States and Israel since
the amendment took effect.

But its continued application could raise questions about U.S. abuse of the

Paul Saunders is the director of the Nixon Center, a Washington-based
policy institute. He says that, especially in Russia, failure to lift
restrictions related to the amendment is breeding cynicism:

"It can create an impression among some people that we don't live up to our
commitments or that, alternatively, that we're just trying to maintain any
kind of leverage that we can use against other people whenever we need it
for whatever political reason we decide to use at the time," Saunders says.

The U.S.-funded Congressional Research Service said in a recent report that
the amendment is unlikely to be repealed any time soon.

The report's author, trade specialist Vladimir Pregelj, tells RFE/RL that
Congress has so far indicated its intent to maintain the measure as a trade
lever, even while it individually removes countries from its restrictions:

"I think the Congress would prefer to stick on this country-by- country
termination [rather] than a wholesale repeal of the Jackson-Vanik
amendment," Pregelj says.

Pregelj says there are currently six bills in the U.S. Congress aimed at
removing Ukraine from the amendment's restrictions.

After a meeting with the Ukrainian president on Monday, U.S. President
George W. Bush vowed to lift the restrictions. In addition, the U.S.
Senate, as part of a foreign aid bill, this week was considering an
amendment to normalize trade relations with Ukraine.

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