Tuesday, 20 July 1999

In April, the Administration announced that food and medicine would be exempted from current, and possibly future, U.S. administrative unilateral sanctions. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee in May that the Administration expected to release regulations to govern the new policy by the end of June.

"It has now been more than two months since Secretary Eizenstat testified at our hearing, and there is still no definite timetable for implementing this new policy. America's farmers need to see that their government is taking every step it can to assist them in these difficult times," Lugar wrote to the President. "The U.S. agricultural community needs its government's help in rebuilding its reputation and position in international markets. Relieving commercial agricultural sales of the threat of the imposition of unilateral economic sanctions is a crucially important first step toward accomplishing these goals."

"Food and medicine should not be used as a tool of foreign policy. Doing so typically injures innocent civilians in the sanctioned country, imposes little hardship on recalcitrant leaders whose behavior we wish to change, and opens the door for other exporting nations to replace the U.S. as a food supplier," Lugar said.

Earlier this year, Lugar introduced the Sanctions Policy Reform Act which fundamentally reforms the way the U.S. uses unilateral sanctions. The bill would require an impact study before sanctions are contemplated, that sanctions be evaluated for effectiveness and that a sanction expire after two years unless there is a Presidential or Congressional re-authorization. In May, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved the Agricultural Trade Freedom Act, legislation Lugar introduced to exempt agricultural products from all unilateral sanctions.

"There is strong bipartisan interest in moving these pieces of legislation. American farmers and other exporters are eager to see this legislation considered and enacted during this session of the Congress. If we do not act, I fear we may lose the momentum to achieve true trade reform at a time when expansion of our export markets is desperately needed," said Lugar, senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Lugar has pressed the Administration for months to exempt food and medicine from sanctions against Iran and other countries. In January, Lugar wrote National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, "I believe it is time to seriously consider lifting our unilateral embargo against the sale of food and agricultural products to Iran. The President has the authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to modify or lift the current sanctions on food sales imposed on Iran through Executive Order 12959. I believe he should do so.

"The market potential for U.S. agricultural exports to Iran is significant. During l994-97, for example, Iran imported an average of 4.45 millions tons of wheat, 1.86 millions tons of coarse grains, 543,000 tons of soymeal and 408,000 tons of soybean oil. The U.S. is among the most competitive suppliers of each product. At present, however, our farmers and exporters cannot sell these or any other farm goods to Iran," Lugar wrote.