PEC requests review of the overall effectiveness of US unilateral sanctions policy

Wednesday, 17 March 2004

Remarks of Glen A. Barton

President's Export Council
March 17, 2004
Washington, D.C.

Good Morning. As you may know over the years much of the work of the President's Export Council has focused on the need to open foreign markets, improve U.S. competitiveness and keep the U.S. market open to imports. At times, however, there has been another concern of the PEC. Namely the tendency by policymakers to unilaterally restrict American exports to achieve various foreign policy goals.

Even though unilateral sanctions rarely achieve the intended objective, are often counterproductive, and almost always hurt U.S. economic growth and job creation … during the 1990s U.S. unilateral sanctions were used with great frequency. For clarity I'm only referring to unilateral sanctions. Multilateral sanctions that include our trading partners have a better track record.

In 1997 the PEC was so concerned that it issued a White Paper that reported, "More than 75 countries now are named as subject to, or under threat of one or more of some 21 specific sanctions based on 27 target behaviors." It is hard to believe but that meant about half the world's population was the target of some kind of U.S. unilateral sanction. I'm pleased to report that after an extended public policy debate, led by the business coalition USA Engage, policymakers started to view unilateral sanctions with more caution.

According to a 2002 study by the respected Barry Carter of the Georgetown University Law Center, during the period 1997 through 2001 the United States used fewer unilateral sanctions. Moreover the sanctions used were smarter in that the people involved in terrorism, drug production or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction were targeted, not the population of an entire country. Clearly, this was an important and positive change in the way the U.S. viewed unilateral sanctions.

On September 11, 2001, the world changed for all of us. The PEC fully recognizes that the United States must be willing to deploy the full range of tools at its disposal - including economic sanctions - to fight the war on terrorism. At the same time we recognize that there are still limitations of broad, poorly targeted unilateral sanctions.

Today, policymakers are embracing new unilateral sanctions against countries like Syria and Burma while possibly lifting sanctions against Libya and Sudan. There is also legislation pending that would impose unilateral sanctions against Saudi Arabia and enhance the Iran Libya Sanctions Act.

While not taking a position of specific legislation, the letter that I propose we submit to President Bush discusses the issue of unilateral economic sanctions and recommends that the Administration undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. unilateral sanctions policy, weighing the results of previous sanctions in achieving their intended goals against the costs they impose on other U.S. policy objectives, including the impact on the U.S economy and jobs. We also ask that the Administration review the process by which unilateral sanctions are imposed, both in the Executive Branch and in the Congress.

I would like to thank the other members of the Technology and Competitiveness Subcommittee for helping draft this letter. I also want to report that at the next PEC meeting in the fall, our subcommittee will report on the key role education plays in improving American competitiveness.

Before I seek your approval of the sanctions letter are there any comments or questions?