Who and what are behind The Jackson-Vanik Amendment?
07/02/2007, Oleg Sidorov
The Jackson-Vanik Amendment saddens the relations of the USA and the countries of the former USSR during a long time. Nowadays it is one of the symbols of former confrontation of two states and two political systems.
Azerbaijan, Armenia, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are under action of the American amendment. Until recent time the list of the countries, against which the Jackson-Vanik Amendment was applied, included also China, Vietnam and Ukraine.
What represents the amendment itself and why many countries, against which it is applied until now, have the intentions to negotiate with the White House its cancellation to be able to forget it as a nightmare?
Let's remind that the authors of the famous amendment were two well-known in US politicians:
The member of the House of Representatives of the Congress, senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson (was elected in the US Congress in 1941-1953, was a member of the Senate in 1953-1983);
The member of the House of Representatives of the Congress Charles Vanik (was elected in the US Congress in 1955-1981).
The brief background of the amendment brings us back to fall of 1972 when the Soviet government has obliged its citizens, wishing to emigrate from the USSR, to pay "indemnification for the received education".
The amount of compensation was that high that only limited quantity of emigrants could finally leave the Soviet Union. It is necessary to notice, that in the beginning of 80s general body of emigrants from the Soviet Union went to Israel.
The acceptance by Moscow the above-stated measures became the catalyst of the increasing Jewish lobby activity (one of the strongest groups of influence) in the US Congress.
As the result, the 1974 Trade Act of the United States was passed, which in fact became one of the try to create the mechanism regulating the trade relations between The US and other countries measuring in fulfilment of human rights conditions. In this concrete case the human migration rights were accentuated.
Sanctions came into force if the government:
1. denies its citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate freely;
2. imposes a more than nominal tax on emigration, visas or other documents required for emigration, regardless of reasons and purposes of this taxation;
3. imposes a more than nominal tax, fee, or any other charge on any citizen because of his desire to emigrate to the country of his choice.
At the same time, countries where the free emigration is forbidden or made to be difficult are declared as countries with non-market economy.
In this case the Article 402 put a ban on allowing these countries an offer of "the most favoured treatment". The amendment bans also the accordance to these countries loans and official credit warranties.
The other side of the 1974 Trade Act was the introduction of sanctions towards the countries violating the international laws. Sanctions were made to limit the access of goods, made in these countries, to the internal US market.
According to the document, sanctions could not be activated towards countries violating the free emigration if they have declared market economy. Therefore, this amendment only worked with regards to socialist countries.
In particular, the amendment has an effect on China and Vietnam. However the US has never used it even against such disagreeable countries as Zimbabwe, Myanma and others with non-socialist regimes.
After the beginning of well-known Perestroika period, the emigration procedure to get a permanent residency abroad was slightly simplified, that allowed people willing to leave the Soviet Union to realize the plans. Since 1989 almost 235 thousand of Jews moved from the USSR to the US.
The collapse of the USSR pushed emigratory moods among the population further on. A streamlet turned to the rivers which have overflowed the citizens facing the vague future of new republics and the stability, predictability of abroad. As a result, today the community of the Russian Jews in the US numbered from 750 thousands up to one million of persons, one more million of the Soviet Jews live now in Israel.
After the Soviet Union collapse the amendment has started to have an effect on all countries which have received sovereignty on the post-Soviet territory. Existing now in the majority of the former USSR countries the regime of "wide choice" concerning the permanent residency every time shows that the Jackson-Vanik Amendment has become outdated.
This was considered by the White House as well. Washington has begun a gradual cancellation of the amendment action to the CIS countries. In the beginning of 90s the US has already cancelled the amendment action for the Baltic States. Concerning China, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Albania the amendment was stopped in 2000.
By the end of 2004 the US Senate abolished the amendment with regard to Armenia. Towards Ukraine the US President used the temporary cancellation procedure annually, and in March 2006 Kiev has finally gotten the precious abolition. By the end of 2006 Vietnam also succeeded in achievement of the amendment cancellation.
Nowadays the amendment has legal effect only regarding certain CIS countries, including Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The procedure of the US trade relations with the countries, which, in the White House point of view, is the source of human rights violation, could be interesting too. For instance, "exemptions" from the Jackson-Vanik Amendment are annually made for Byelorussia and Turkmenistan.
We can also underline, that the amendment in fact had no effect towards CIS countries starting from mid-90s.
This could be explained from the 1974 law point of view, where it was set, that the US President, if discovered that freedom of emigration in this or that state was improved, can individually suspend the amendment for a year, and then annually prolong the suspension. Such practise was used in the relations with China from end 70s, with Ukraine - from 1997.
For today the Jackson-Vanik Amendment has lost its substantial sense and is used as the tool of political pressure upon the ex-Soviet states. At the same time many countries, with regards to whom the amendment operates, understand, that without its cancellation the US delegation formally has no right to vote for acceptance of the ex-Soviet countries to World Trade Organization.
This is also understood in the White House. What is why the instrument of influence, which seemed not to be working, becomes the instrument of political pressure which is manipulating equally by the influence groups and the US government. It gives the second breath to the Jackson-Vanik Amendment which seemed to lose its actuality.
Legal text of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment
Article 2432 of the US Code
Freedom of emigration in trade between East and West
(a) Actions of the countries with non-market economy, putting them beyond the framework of normal trade relations, credit programs, credit or either investment guarantees, or commercial agreements.
To approve the constant fidelity of the US to fundamental human rights principles, since January 3rd, 1975, irrespective of other legislation positions, the goods from any country with non-market economy will not be a subject to non-discrimination mode (normal trade relations), and such country will not participate in any program of the US government, assuming the direct or mediated granting of credits, credit guarantees or investment guarantees, and the US President will not make any commercial agreement with any of such countries during the period which starts from the date when the President defines, that such country:
(1) denies its citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate;
(2) imposes a more than nominal tax on emigration or on documents required for emigration; or
(3) imposes a more than nominal tax, fee, or any other charge on any citizen because of his desire to emigrate to the country of his choice.
and ends with date, when the President defines, that such country does not violate the above-named points (1), (2) or (3).
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