Senators seek to tighten American laws against anti-Israel trade boycotts

Senators seek to tighten

Two leading US senators have introduced a bill aimed at strengthening Washington's opposition to the Arab economic and trade embargo against Israel. The Boycott Disclosure Act of 2009, which was submitted last week by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, states that, "Congress reaffirms its opposition to trade boycotts of Israel and calls on the President to take stronger steps to end all trade boycotts of Israel." The bill would require the Obama administration to provide more comprehensive reporting regarding which countries participate in the Arab boycott, as well as assessments concerning the nature of their involvement. The Arab League established an Office for the Boycott of Israel in Damascus in 1951 to oversee implementation of the embargo against the Jewish state, which is designed to isolate Israel and weaken her economically. Current US law bars American firms from cooperating with the Arab boycott and requires any boycott-related requests to be reported to the federal government. In an interview from Washington with The Jerusalem Post, Graham said the need for his bill arose because, "current reporting on the trade boycotts of Israel includes some important information, but the reports are not complete." Specifically, Graham said he was referring to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), which is responsible for coordinating the development of America's trade policy. "By statute, USTR leads the administration's inter-agency process, which includes the Department of Commerce and a number of other departments and agencies, in identifying and analyzing foreign country policies and practices that constitute barriers to trade," Graham explained. "Reporting on the boycott of Israel is part of this USTR-led analysis, which is published in USTR's National Trade Estimate report each year," he added. "This bill is designed to make that reporting more comprehensive." Asked to provide examples, Graham pointed out that, "There are nations who are not official members of the Arab League who nevertheless boycott Israel and Israeli products." In addition, he said, "Some nations have government offices which are responsible for enforcing the boycott, while others send government representatives to official Arab League boycott meetings." Other countries, he noted, "may be engaging in practices that have the same practical effect of a formal boycott by discouraging trade with Israel." Calling this "important information," Graham said that the bill he submitted together with Schumer would require that it be included in future National Trade Estimates published by the USTR. This, he said, would "bring attention to the full scope of this issue," and "the more transparency we can bring to exposing these boycotts, the sooner we can bring them to an end." Calling the Arab boycott of Israel "counter-productive to peace and regional economic development," Graham said, "I really believe scrapping this out-of-date boycott is a critical part of achieving a comprehensive peace."