Jackson-Vanik amendment: The document Poroshenko offers to "revive"

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The amendment to US Trade Act introduces restrictive measures in relation to countries that infringe human rights
10:38, 7 September 2016

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President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko during his annual address to Verkhovna Rada announced the need to develop a modern version of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. Such measures, according to him, would have been logical for the infringement of human rights in the occupied by Russia Ukrainian territories.

"Russia’s human rights violations in the occupied territories, including the rights of the Crimean Tatars, require the introduction of additional sectoral sanctions, and I think, that modernized dialogue to implement an analog of the Jackson-Vanik amendment would not be amiss," - Poroshenko said. offers to familiarize with the content standards, the new version of which proposed to adopt the Ukrainian president.

Preconditions of amendment

August 3, 1972 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted a decree "On the compensation by Soviet citizens leaving for permanent residence abroad, of public spending on education." For example, owners of university diplomas in order to obtain permission to travel, had to pay a fee of 10-12 thousand rubles, which at that time was a ginormous sum. In response, more than 20 Nobel laureates issued a public statement accusing the Soviet leadership in the mass violations of human rights.

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Henry Jackson and Charles Vanik

The amendment was introduced by the United States in 1974, to US Trade Act on the initiative of Senator Henry Jackson and Congressman Charles Vanik. It was intended to affect US trade relations with countries with non-market economies that restrict freedom of emigration and other human rights.

USSR wasn’t mentioned in this amendment but the driving force behind the document was the desire of the US to promote freedom of emigration from totalitarian states and, above all, the repatriation of Soviet Jews to Israel.

Richard Perle, Jackson’s employee who prepared the amendment, said that Jackson believed the right to emigrate in certain aspects among the most powerful of human rights. "If people could vote with their feet, the government would be forced to take this into account and do everything for its citizens, to keep them in the country", - he noted.

The content of amendment

Article 402 of the US Trade law under the name "Freedom of emigration to the East-West trade" (which, in fact, is the Jackson-Vanik amendment) prohibits giving the most favored regime to the country that violate or seriously restrict the rights of its citizens to emigrate. In particular, it’s prohibited to provide loans and loan guarantees.

The amendment also stipulates that goods imported to US from countries with non-market economies, are subject to the discriminatory tariffs and taxes if these countries deprive their citizens of rights or opportunities to emigrate, or charge more than a nominal tax on emigration, visa and documents required for emigration.

This amendment affected Soviet Union, (and later the post-Soviet states), China, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Albania, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Poland was liberated from the amendment among Soviet bloc countries, but this status was suspended from 1982 to 1987, because of actions against "Solidarity". Yugoslavia was also liberated, but in 1991-1992, in connection with the bloody events, the most-favored status of Serbia and Montenegro has been suspended.


 Since 1975, more than 500 000 refugees, a large number of whom were Jews, Christians, and Catholics from the former Soviet Union, have moved to the United States. About one million Soviet Jews have immigrated to Israel at the same time.

In the last 20 years of the USSR existence the Jackson-Vanik amendment in respect of Russia has lost its original meaning. Since the late 80-ies of the last century the Soviet Union has abolished exit permits and exit visas, emigration became free. Since 1989, the US imposed an annual moratorium on the amendment, and in 1994, President Clinton gave a guarantee of automatic extension of MFN treatment to trade, so that even the annual moratorium has lost its meaning. Since that an amendment is not actually valid.

The amendment was canceled for Ukraine in March 2006. Such changes receive support of 417 congressmen, against it were just 2. Earlier, a similar bill was approved by the Senate. The then President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko connected this step of US with process of implementing reforms in Ukraine.

US trade relations with other former Soviet republics (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) are still formally subject to the amendment, but they are also  covered by a temporary exemption.

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