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June 15, 1999
The Administration supports the goals of sanctions reform and has been working with Congress on principles to ensure effective foreign policy use of sanctions. The Administration also believes that, as a general principle, restrictions on food, medicines, medical equipment, and other human essentials should not be used as a weapon in foreign policy absent compelling circumstances. On April 28th, the President announced that the Administration would generally exempt commercial sales of agricultural commodities and products, medicines, and medical equipment from future discretionary Executive Branch unilateral sanctions and to currently embargoed countries on a case-by-case basis where it has discretion to do so.
The Administration has concerns about H.R. 17. These concerns include that H.R. 17: (1) would unnecessarily restrict the President's flexibility to use this important foreign policy tool by requiring a Presidential report to Congress on any selective embargo on agricultural commodities, and establishing procedures for congressional approval or disapproval of the reported embargo; and (2) would require the termination of sanctions on a date certain regardless of changes in the behavior or policies of sanctioned countries.
More generally, although the Administration supports the principle that food should not be used as a tool of sanctions policy - as reflected in the President's April 28th announcement - the Administration believes that efforts to reform agriculture-related sanctions should not take the place of broader sanctions reform efforts.