Congress writes boycott opposition into trade talks

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Congress included a provision in a trade bill that requires U.S. negotiators to raise objections to Israel boycotts in their dealings.

The language, part of a broad Trade Promotion Authority passed by both chambers of Congress, says that “discouraging” Israel boycotts would become one of the “principal negotiating objectives” of U.S. officials.

“The provision included by Congress pushes back against actions by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which strongly backed the inclusion of the language, said in a statement Wednesday, the day the Senate approved the trade bill.

The bill “urges the U.S. Trade Representative to seek the elimination of politically-motivated economic attacks on Israel by America’s free trade partners,” AIPAC said, praising its lead sponsors, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.).


The language explicitly includes “persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories” as illegitimate targets for boycotts.

The bill’s passage could compromise trade dealings with Europe, where most countries have banned boycotts of Israel within its 1967 lines but have regulations restricting trade with Israeli businesses in the West Bank.

President Barack Obama has said he will sign the bill. He sought the Trade Promotion Authority, a bill that requires Congress to approve or reject trade pacts without amendments, in order to facilitate planned trade deals with Europe.

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