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NFTC, USA*Engage Express Serious Concerns About House Passage of Iran Sanctions Bill, Urge Senators to Reject Legislation
Date: 12/15/2009
Written By: Jennifer Cummings, The Fratelli Group, 202-822-9491

Washington, DC – The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and USA*Engage today expressed deep disappointment over the U.S. House of Representatives' approval of H.R. 2194, a bill that would amend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 by expanding U.S. unilateral sanctions against Iran in ways that pose a threat to the competitiveness of U.S. and foreign companies.

"We are deeply disappointed that the House approved this flawed piece of legislation. In many ways, the House vote was predictable, as Congress consistently feels the need to ‘do something' to show the Iranian regime it disapproves of its pursuit of nuclear weapons. While the intentions behind the bill are understandable, this is both the wrong time and the wrong policy tool to use to affect the behavior of Iran's leaders," said NFTC President Bill Reinsch. "The reality is three-fold. One, unilateral sanctions are ineffective because they do not include the buy-in and support of our allies in the international community. Two, the Administration is engaged in delicate multilateral negotiations aimed at applying pressure on Iran to change course. Three, this bill is far-reaching, and instead of imposing targeted sanctions, it will, if enacted, broaden the scope of actions and actors subject to sanctions in an unprecedented way."

"The potential consequences of this bill to U.S. industry, exports and jobs have not been analyzed in great detail. We urge the Senate to reject S. 2799, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009, in its current form, and spend time reviewing its provisions to better determine the impact on the U.S. economy," said USA*Engage Director Richard Sawaya. "Now is not the time to implement broad-brush sanctions that have little focus and will likely do more harm than good. We applaud several Senators who have expressed concerns and principled objection to the bill as drafted, including Senator Kerry."

A NFTC/USA*Engage analysis of the House and Senate bills highlights the following key flaws:

* With respect to the extension of the Iran Sanctions Act to "entities" that trade refined petroleum products to Iran, both bills contain language that would subject any entity that trades refined petroleum products (as defined in the law) with Iran, over a fairly minimal dollar threshold, to mandatory sanctions enumerated in the bills. Assuming OFAC adopts the traditional approach to restricting U.S. persons from dealing in "property" or "interest in property" of the sanctioned person, U.S. companies could be precluded from any trade or business relationship with the sanctioned entity. The language in the additional mandatory sanctions section of each bill is quite sweeping, and would isolate any entity engaged in such trade from the U.S. economy.

* The bills also target foreign export credit agencies (ECAs) that finance any entities that have dealings with Iran's energy sector. This measure would effectively preclude the Export-Import Bank from co-financing with such ECAs projects of U.S. exporters that have no relation to Iran's or to its energy sector.

* The President's waiver authority in both bills is severely constrained.


About USA*Engage

USA*Engage ( is a coalition of small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral U.S. foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad. Established in 1997 and organized under the National Foreign Trade Council (, USA*Engage leads a campaign to inform policy-makers, opinion-leaders, and the public about the counterproductive nature of unilateral sanctions, the importance of exports and overseas investment for American competitiveness and jobs, and the role of American companies in promoting human rights and democracy world wide.

About the NFTC

Advancing Global Commerce for Over 95 Years - The National Foreign Trade Council ( is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves hundreds of member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.