Courtesy Reuters

Dilemmas of Détente: Most-Favored-Nation and Less Favorite Nations

The Amendment submitted by Senator Henry Jackson to the Administration's pending Trade Reform bill, along with its counterpart in the House of Representatives, is a curious blend of foreign policy idealism and domestic politics. The exaggerated claims of both proponents and opponents in the long and often emotional debate over the Amendment cannot obscure the underlying issue, which is as old as the nation-state-whether and when should one nation apply pressure to alter those policies or practices of another which, if not exclusively "internal" in impact, are at least not clearly within the traditional foreign policy realm. Although any amendment enjoying the formal sponsorship of nearly four-fifths of the members of the Senate and nearly two-thirds of the members of the House appears almost certain to be passed in one form or another, both the Congress and the Administration must now think through more carefully the implications and consequences of enacting the Amendment in its present form.


The Jackson Amendment would deny to any "nonmarket economy country" eligibility for most-favored-nation tariff treatment (MFN) and participation in the Federal government's export credit, credit guarantee and investment guarantee programs during any period in which that country denies to its citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate, specifically by imposing more than a nominal tax or other charge. The primary objective of the Amendment is the elimination of Soviet "education" or exit taxes and other restrictions on the emigration to Israel of Soviet Jews.

That is a worthy objective, consistent with basic principles of human rights, with which few can in good conscience disagree. (I personally have supported free Jewish emigration in addresses in the Soviet Union as well as the United States.) As a means of achieving this objective, however-even as a somewhat awkward vehicle for conveying congressional support for it-the Amendment, to say nothing of the debate thereon, has been less clearly focused. For in fact it attempts too much to be effective and too little to be meaningful.

Inconsistencies abound

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