WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, today sharply criticized President Clinton for his indecision with regard to sanctions imposed on Northwest farmers in response to last month's nuclear tests in Pakistan.
On May 28, 1998, President Clinton called for wide-ranging sanctions against Pakistan as mandated under Section 102 of the Arms Export Control Act following Pakistan's detonation of nuclear devices. Clinton imposed similar sanctions against India after it broke a 24 year self-imposed moratorium by conducting underground tests earlier in May. Section 102, also known as the "Glenn Provision," calls for the prohibition on assistance to countries involved in the export, transfer, or detonation of nuclear explosives, but exempts humanitarian assistance and agricultural commodities.
On May 29, Chairman Smith and Ranking Committee Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to recognize that Congress intended GSM credit guarantees to be out of the scope of the Arms Export Control Act. The President did not respond to the Chairman's letter.
There is disagreement within Clinton's cabinet as to whether GSM credits, which are used solely for agricultural exports, are exempt from the sanctions. Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman told a group of reporters that, "The law was not intended to impose a grain embargo." Nevertheless, President Clinton has yet to make an official decision supporting Glickman's statement.
"The President's indecision is horrifying. For every day he spends ducking this issue, his grain embargo risks the future of our largest markets and the futures of Northwest farmers. He has it in his power to recognize that Congress never intended to sanction hardworking Americans, and yet he refuses to show any signs of leadership. While he's in Oregon today, I'd like him to explain to our farmers why he's letting them be punished for the Pakistani government's actions," Smith said.
"The net effect of these sanctions will be to freely cede market share to our competitors. U.S. unilateral sanctions already prevent U.S. wheat sales to 11% of the world wheat market, and now we must add both India and Pakistan to the list...U.S. sanctions have damaged our reputation as a reliable supplier. U.S. farm families are still paying the price for the Soviet grain embargo of 1980," wrote Mac Kerns, President of the Oregon Wheat Growers League in a June 11 letter to Chairman Smith.
Pakistan was the largest customer for Northwest white wheat in the past marketing year and accounted for 43% of U.S. white wheat exports in the 1997-98 marketing year. GSM credit guarantees were included in nearly all of these sales packages.
Bob Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District -- which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon -- in the U.S. House of Representatives.