Washington, DC – National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) President and USA*Engage Co-Chair Bill Reinsch today released the following statement in response to the Senate Finance Committee’s approval of the Iran Sanctions Act of 2008.
“While the Iran bill passed in committee today is an improvement over previous iterations, it still raises a number of concerns with regard to U.S. foreign relations and diplomacy.
“Of particular concern is a provision which would prevent the United States from entering into the U.S.-Russia Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. The Bush administration’s decision to negotiate a Section 123 Agreement with Russia was reached based on the fact that Russia has already taken important steps to prevent Iranian nuclear proliferation.
“We believe that the United States must certainly seek greater Russian cooperation on Iran, but this bill is exactly the wrong way to achieve that cooperation. The bill is more likely to undermine U.S. multilateral efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons for which Russia’s cooperation is indispensable. Jamming a finger in Russia’s eye is only likely to weaken its willingness to cooperate with the United States. We applaud Senator Bingaman’s efforts to protect this agreement.
“While Iran’s behavior is unacceptable, Congress must balance the need to stand strong against the risk of doing something counterproductive like this bill.
“We thank Senators Baucus and Grassley and their staffs for their hard work and leadership in attempting to limit the impact of this legislation on the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy.”
As Reinsch noted during his April 8 testimony on S.970, a similar bill before the Senate Finance Committee, a better approach would be to fund a high-level special envoy for Iran with the authority to engage in direct bilateral talks in partnership with the international community. As he noted then, “The United States has made some progress negotiating an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program through direct diplomatic engagement. When it comes to Iran, there is already a framework for cooperation – security talks in Baghdad – and precedent – the United States and Iran cooperated in the past to support democratic governance in Afghanistan.”
Reinsch cautioned at the time, “I will guarantee you that if S. 970 is enacted it will have serious unintended consequences which will be manifested rather quickly, and which would make our efforts to change Iran’s behavior significantly more difficult. I strongly urge the Committee to reject this approach and instead to endorse diplomatic efforts with our allies and with Iran that are much more likely to result in a positive outcome.”
This week the NFTC will lead a press roundtable to discuss S.970 and the Section 123 Agreement. For more information, please use the contact information listed above.
USA*Engage (www.usaengage.org) 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 (www.nftc.org), 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.
The National Foreign Trade Council (www.nftc.org) 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.