Waiver of Jackson-Vanik

60th General Assembly
November 1989
New Orleans, Louisiana

In 1974, Representative Charles Vanik and Senator Henry Jackson attached an amendment (known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment) to the Trade Act of that year. This amendment applies to all communist countries ("non-market" economies), and provides that MFN ("Most-Favored Nation" tariff status), and U.S. government credits and guarantees, will be withheld from any "non-market" country, until the President determines that the country neither denies its citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate, nor imposes an excessive exit tax to limit (or exploit) emigration.

Since that time, the prospect of an initial eighteen-month presidential waiver (with possible further annual extensions), or the complete repeal of the amendment, has been used to encourage the Soviet Union to allow increased emigration - particularly the emigration of Soviet Jews.

In 1979, even when Soviet Jewish emigration reached an all-time high of over 51,000, the Jewish community hesitated calling for a waiver of Jackson-Vanik due to concerns that the high emigration was only a temporary phenomenon. From 1980-1986 Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union dropped to a trickle of about 1,000 emigrants a year. Some have argued that if a waiver had been imposed in 1979, the number of emigrants might not have fallen off so drastically. Others have argued that the drop in emigrant numbers suggests we were right not to grant a waiver at that time. But all agree that if a waiver was granted in 1979 and the numbers did drop off in 1980 and 1981, that the reinstitution of the amendment in the early eighties would have sent a powerful message of our commitment to free emigration.

Today, again, the numbers of Jews emigrating from the Soviet Union has reached record levels. We recognize and applaud these recent developments. We believe these changes require a change in U.S. policy towards the Soviet Union.

President Bush has indicated a readiness to waive Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions if the USSR meets certain conditions including: systemizing emigration reforms, sustained levels of emigration, limits on the "state secret" restriction, and continued progress on long-term refuseniks.

Therefore, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

Support the proposal of administration to institute an eighteen month waiver of the Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions on the Soviet Union as soon as the conditions set forth by President Bush are met.