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Ukraine: U.S. House Lifts Jackson-Vanik Restrictions

  • Julie Corwin --> President Yushchenko appealed to the U.S. Congress to lift the amendment when he visited Washington in April 2005 (file photo) (RFE/RL) On March 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill permanently exempting Ukraine from trade restrictions imposed under the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which ties trade status to the rights of Jews to emigrate. The timing of the bill's passage was not accidental. March 9 marked the beginning of a two-day official visit to Washington by Ukraine's Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk. And more critically, Ukrainian parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 26.

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The bill will still need to pass the Senate and be signed by President George W. Bush in order to become law. But both of these actions are expected to follow quickly. The U.S. administration and selected members of both the Republican and Democrats parties in the House are eager to show their support for Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko before the parliamentary race.

Congressman Curt Weldon (Republican, Pennsylvania) noted on the floor of the House: "President Yuschenko has continuously called for this action that we take today and certainly the timing is appropriate because in several weeks Ukraine will elect a new Rada [parliament]. This sends a signal that Ukraine now has the full and equal respect of the government and of the people of the United States."

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

Yushchenko called for lifting Jackson-Vanik soon after assuming office. And when he visited the United States in April 2005, the Ukrainian leader made such an appeal when he addressed a joint session of Congress: "Members of Congress, I'm calling on you to lift the Jackson-Vanik amendment, to make this step towards Ukraine. Tear down this wall."

Ukraine has benefited from a series of annual waivers of Jackson-Vanik, but its permanent graduation from the trade restrictions will make it possible for the U.S.-Ukraine bilateral WTO agreement to take effect. That agreement was signed earlier this week. In February, the United States granted Ukraine "market-economy" status. The lifting of the Jackson-Vanik amendment represents the final milestone in the normalization of trade relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.

Soviet-Era Measure

The Jackson-Vanik amendment was passed more than 30 years ago to pressure the Soviet Union to allow the emigration of Jews. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California) said that he supported the recent bill "reluctantly and with reservations."

"Like all of our colleagues, I welcome the democratic strides that Ukraine has taken since the Orange Revolution, and I want to note that the country has met the basic narrow condition for lifting Jackson-Vanik restrictions: Jews are allowed to emigrate from Ukraine," Lantos said. "But I am very deeply concerned about the larger human rights questions and particularly the failure to deal with rampant anti-Semitism in Ukraine."

Lantos said in his remarks on the floor that he is expecting the Ukrainian government to revoke the license for an accredited local university, the Interregional Academy for Personnel Management, which he accused of fomenting anti-Semitism. According to the Anti-Defamation League, U.S. white supremacist leader and former head of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on Zionism and was a key participant in the university's 2005 conference on "Zionism: Threat to World Peace."

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