Bipartisan Sanctions Reform Legislation Endorsed by USA*ENGAGE

Wednesday, 24 March 1999

The Senate bill, sponsored by Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Senator Robert Kerrey (D-NE) and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has 27 original cosponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS). In the House, companion legislation has been introduced by Congressman Philip Crane (R-IL), Chairman of the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, Congressman Calvin Dooley (D-CA), and Congressman Donald Manzullo (R-IL). The House bill has 40 original cosponsors.

Kittredge emphasized that The Sanctions Process Reform Act seeks to promote responsible reforms. "The bill does not prevent the use of sanctions, its primary goal is to ensure that Congress and the Administration have better information whenever unilateral sanctions are being considered. History has shown that unilateral sanctions are ineffective, costly and often counterproductive. It's just common sense to establish a disciplined process prior to the imposition of future sanctions," he said.

Key Elements of The Sanctions Process Reform Act:


  • The bill establishes a procedural framework for consideration of future U.S. unilateral sanctions, requiring assessment of whether a proposed sanction is aimed at a clearly defined and realistic objective, and if it is likely to be effective. It further requires a consideration of whether a proposed sanction undermines other U.S. security, foreign policy, and humanitarian objectives; the economic costs for American industry and agriculture; and whether potential alternatives, such as multilateral sanctions or diplomatic initiatives, have been exhausted.


  • The bill provides non-binding guidelines for future Congressional and Executive Branch sanctions, including:

    Presidential Waiver Authority -- allowing flexibility to adjust the timing and extent of any unilateral sanction to maximize the likelihood of success, as well as clear authority to waive sanctions if they would be counterproductive.

    Food and Medicine -- excluding food and medicine exports, including financing, from future U.S. sanctions. In addition, humanitarian factors would be taken into account in seeking to carefully target future sanctions to avoid hurting the innocent.

    Agricultural Compensation -- to offset losses by American farmers, USDA would be authorized to boost export promotion programs whenever the U.S. sanctions a major agricultural market.

    Sunset Provision -- unilateral sanctions would sunset after 2 years, but could be reauthorized or intensified if appropriate.

    Contract Sanctity -- Existing contracts would be honored, unless doing so posed a threat to U.S. security.

"America's continued reliance on unilateral sanctions is a problem that hurts American workers and businesses alike," said Kittredge. "The Sanctions Process Reform Act is a well-balanced, reasonable bill that will not prevent the use of future unilateral sanctions if they are truly warranted. This legislation has all the components needed to gain widespread support from both sides of the aisle and from the Administration. We are hopeful that it will move quickly."

USA*ENGAGE is a coalition of 675 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.