January 13, 1999
According to Sen.
Helms, the prevailing view is that there has been a proliferation of sanctions
legislation in recent years. This view is in good measure based on a set
of statistics found in a study sponsored by the National Association of
Manufacturers (NAM) and circulated by USA*Engage, an anti-sanctions business
group. The core finding of the NAM report is that:
From 1993 through
1996, the U.S. imposed sanctions 61 times -- 20 times by laws passed by
Congress, 41 times by presidential order -- and that these sanctions affected
2.3 billion people (that is, 42 percent of the world).
At Sen. Helms' request,
the Congressional Research Service (CRS) was asked to review this finding.
The CRS concluded that it could not validate NAM's numbers. "We find
the calculation used in...the NAM study to be flawed, even if the specific
[sanctions] were fairly characterized, which is not always the case."
three-quarters of the congressional measures were not sanctions at all
but conditions, limitations, or restrictions on U.S. foreign aid."
One sanction "barred aid or military or police training to Haitians
involved in drug trafficking or human rights abuses.... Still another
prohibited Defense Department aid to countries supporting terrorists."
Page Two, Sanctions Of the 41 presidentially-imposed sanctions,
5 are not unilateral, as NAM charges, but rather represent U.S. compliance
with U.N. Security Council sanctions. In 7 instances, the NAM study counts
the same sanction repeatedly. In 2 cases, there was no sanction ever imposed.
In 8 cases, the "sanctions" are restrictions on U.S. foreign
aid, which include bans affecting military exports to Zaire, Nigeria,
Sudan, Haiti, and Angola. And, in 13 cases, the sanctions affect only
a specific foreign company or person -- not an entire country, not an
entire industry, but one specific entity (e.g., banning imports from Chinese
companies that use slave labor or seizing the assets of individual Colombian
As for the
claim that 42 percent of the world's population has been affected by U.S.
sanctions, CRSs review makes it clear that the NAM study greatly
overstates sanctions reach. Repeatedly, the NAM study puts the entire
population of a country -- for example, China or the Congo -- into its
calculations even though the targets of the sanctions are often specific
entities or goods, and even though, as CRS notes, most people [in
that country]...are not likely to experience significant impact from or
awareness of [the] imposition."
Other points made
by Sen. Helms touched on questions of the cost of sanctions and their
cry that sanctions cost the United States vital access to large markets
is a sham. According to Jan Paul Acton of the Congressional Budget Office,
to date, the cost of existing sanctions has been quite modest...[perhaps]
less than $1 billion annually.... The United States gave away roughly
$13 billion in foreign aid during 1997.
sanctions...are the linchpin of our nonproliferation policy. According
to a recently declassified analysis by the Arms Control and Disarmament
Agency, the history of U.S.-China relations shows that China has
made specific nonproliferation commitments only under the threat or imposition
Revealingly, while business lobbyists complain about unilateral economic sanctions for foreign policy purposes, they conveniently omit discussing unilateral economic sanctions for trade purposes.
Retaliatory trade sanctions are not mentioned by NAM...a stunning admission of the efficacy of sanctions. The fact is, they have played a crucial role in trade disputes. The threat of unilateral sanctions on China over intellectual property rights and unfair trade barriers has forced China several times to yield.... No wonder business lobbyists are so keen to retain unilateral sanctions in the trade arsenal -- even as they campaign to remove them from our nation's foreign policy."
vs. National Security?" by William R. Hawkins
William Hawkins argues
that sanctions can be much more effective against target nations -- both
large and small -- than critics suggest:
Given its advantage
in size, if the U.S. were really to strangle commerce with the typical
rogue state, its chances of doing substantial damage to the target economy
would be quite high. Indeed, the GDPs of Iran, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iraq,
Burma, and Libya add up to about $620 billion, a fraction of the $7.6
trillion U.S. GDP in 1996.
size is not enough to compensate for a countrys technological
underdevelopment. Chinese exports to the United States alone account for
7 percent of China's GDP, 15 percent of its industrial output, and 40
percent of its exports. American economic leverage even over China is
Hawkins also argues
that the cost to the U.S. associated with the use of sanctions are exaggerated,
especially given the limited markets offered by statist economies:
economies a fraction the size of ours can withstand the pain of sanctions,
as business critics allege, then it would seem the massive and robust
American economy should scarcely notice the cost of imposing them."
As a recent International Trade Commission survey noted, the economic
effects...are small because many of the countries targeted for sanctions
are mainly low-income countries with relatively small markets.
together multilateral alliances...requires leadership -- which the Clinton
administration refuses to provide.... [It] waived sanctions on China for
shipping to Pakistan 5,000 ring magnets, which can be used in gas centrifuges
to enrich uranium; agreed at the 1998 G-8 summit not to apply to European
firms the sanctions required under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act and the
Cuban Democracy Act; and vetoed the Iran Missiles Sanctions Act, which
would have penalized firms that contribute to Iran's missile program.
These actions signaled to other governments that the United States is
not interested in limiting the military-industrial expansion of rogue
states until they become dangerous enough to warrant a visit by cruise
Finally, Hawkins questions
the anti-sanction premise that trade and technology transfers create mutual
benefit, interdependence, and peace:
is that both parties to a commercial transaction benefit. But in the case
of trade between American corporation and rogue regimes, the U.S. gains
consist of private profits, while the gains to the regimes are increases
in state power. Each of the countries facing the heaviest U.S. sanctions
has a socialist command economy, whose principal economic actor is the
regime itself. Strengthening such regimes so that U.S. companies can prosper
is a Faustian bargain."