Background and History

USA*Engage is a broad-based coalition representing Americans from all regions, sectors and segments of our society concerned about the proliferation of unilateral foreign policy sanctions at the federal, state and local level. Despite the fact that broad trade-based unilateral sanctions rarely achieve our foreign policy goals, they continue to have political appeal. Unilateral sanctions give the impression that the United States is "doing something," while American workers, farmers and businesses absorb the costs.

USA*Engage leads a campaign to inform policymakers, opinion leaders and the public about the fact that unilateral sanctions are counterproductive, do not achieve their stated objectives and impose costs on American workers, farmers and businesses. The coalition stresses the importance of exports and overseas investment for American competitiveness and jobs and the role of American companies in promoting human rights and democracy worldwide. USA*Engage supports responsible alternatives to sanctions that actually advance U.S. humanitarian and foreign policy goals, such as intensified U.S. diplomacy, multilateral cooperation and the best practices of American companies.

Member organizations, companies and individuals work together through USA*Engage to assure that unilateral sanctions initiatives at the federal, state and local levels are examined rigorously to determine the potential for accomplishing their stated objectives and for damaging U.S. competitiveness and jobs. The coalition promotes responsible alternatives which advance U.S. security, diplomatic and economic goals.

Since its inception in 1997, USA*Engage has succeeded in convincing many policymakers of the defects of unilateral trade-based foreign policy sanctions and the far greater chance of success in working with allies in the target nation and like-minded governments. While some at the federal, state and local levels still reflexively propose sanctions to change the behavior of a target government, many have heard the message of USA*Engage and have developed alternatives, such as targeted, or "smart," sanctions on individual officials and particularly on the target country's financial sector. While such measures are an improvement over the blunt instrument of broad trade-based sanctions, USA*Engage points out and documents the difficulties of enforcement and the collateral damage of financial sanctions. USA*Engage also opposes use of American courts through the Alien Tort Statute and the regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to achieve foreign policy objectives.

USA*Engage at Work

Sustaining a Broad-Based Coalition — USA*Engage brings together Americans from all regions, sectors and segments of our society to speak out for a more effective foreign policy. Even though a large number of American companies, farmers and workers are hurt by sanctions that take away U.S. export markets and undermine our international competitiveness, Congress and the Administration cannot hear from only activists promoting a narrow sanctions agenda. A large coalition provides the voice to ensure that American policymakers listen to all interested parties, including those who oppose sanctions.

Developing the Case — USA*Engage explains the benefits of economic engagement for American leadership and values, the ineffectiveness of past sanctions initiatives and the high cost of sanctions for American exports, investment and jobs. We propose responsible alternatives that advance American values and foreign policy goals and provide our nation's leaders with effective tools.

Education — USA*Engage has effectively recast the political debate on unilateral economic sanctions. We recruit respected foreign policy and economic experts to speak out against sanctions, actively engage the media and provide outreach to key target states and Congressional districts.

Contacting Government Officials — USA*Engage directly contacts Congressional, Administration, state and local officials. We reach out to Members of Congress by making them aware of the cost of unilateral economic sanctions for constituents in their districts, the ineffectiveness of sanctions in achieving American goals and the role of alternative diplomatic tools.