DATE=1/4/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=U-S ECONOMIC SANCTIONS NUMBER=5-45171 BYLINE=ED WARNER DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The U-S Congress did not enact a single unilateral economic sanction against another nation in 1999, a sharp contrast to previous years. The legislators were reacting to growing pressure from the American business community and from reports that sanctions often do more harm than good. That still leaves U-S sanctions of varying severity on some seventy-five nations. Supporters say this economic weapon is needed to uphold American values in the international arena. V-O-A's Ed Warner reports on the debate. TEXT: How many U-S foreign policies can there be? ask critics of economic sanctions. Not only has the federal government used the sanctions weapon against some seventy-five countries, but more than 200 state and local governments have imposed their own sanctions. This adds up to a bewildering array of punishments, say skeptics, that form no coherent whole. Sanctions range from a total trade ban to cutting off arms sales, reducing foreign aid, freezing assets, increasing tariffs, limiting exports or imports or canceling air links. They are supposed to be tailored to counter the alleged behavior that angers Congress or the White House. In practice, many of the sanctions have only symbolic importance. Bruce Bartlett of the National Center for Policy Analysis says sanctions have become the U-S weapon of choice in the post cold war era: /// Bartlett Act /// When something happens that leaders feel deserves more than ordinary condemnation and they feel the need to do something of substance, trade sanctions are an all-purpose remedy that makes them look tough without endangering any troops. /// End Act /// But sanctions are a blunt instrument that often does not work, says J. Daniel O'Flaherty, vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council. The economic embargo against Iraq has punished average Iraqis, but it has not ousted Saddam Hussein: /// O'Flaherty Act /// You cannot overthrow a ruthless dictator like Saddam by impoverishing his people. He does not care. On the other hand, there are countries like South Africa where it did have an impact on the ruling group to cut them off from international commerce because they cared a little bit more about it. And they were also a little bit more easily embarrassed about what they were doing at home than is Saddam Hussein or the Burmese junta. /// End Act /// Once sanctions are imposed, it is hard to remove them, says Mr. Bartlett. If they were lifted from Iraq, for example, Saddam would declare victory. So they remain in place, despite the suffering of the Iraqi people. Critics point to other times sanctions have backfired. The economic embargo of Haiti wrecked the economy without restoring democracy. The arms embargo on Pakistan may have caused it to rely more on nuclear weapons since it lost access to conventional ones. A report of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington concludes that almost all unilateral sanctions fail almost all the time. That is a gross exaggeration, contends U-S Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in an article in "Foreign Affairs" journal. Among other accomplishments, he cites the threat of sanctions causing Switzerland to pay one-point-two- billion dollars in reparations to holocaust survivors. He writes that Americans should not sell their souls to create jobs and economic prosperity. The impulse to sanctions continues on a state and local level in America. Mr. O'Flaherty says many supporters put principle above pocketbook: /// O'Flaherty Act /// You will find in the human rights community lots of people who will say, "We understand they do not work. We understand they may be counter- productive, but we need them as a tactic to lay down a marker in our relations with certain governments. From their point of view, that is a very legitimate thing to do. /// End Act /// Responding to tyranny is at the heart of American democracy, says Robert Stumberg, professor of law at Georgetown University. As in the case of South Africa, local democracy crafts the policies that later become national: /// Stumberg Act /// They are setting standards of public morality for spending their own taxpayers' money. They are not regulating markets. They are not telling companies they can or cannot do business anywhere. They are not limiting opportunities for investors. They are simply saying that, "We, the government of this city or this state choose not to do business with certain companies that violate our standards of public morality." /// End Act /// This is the basis of a Massachusetts law that bars state contracts from any company doing business with the government of Burma. But an American business coalition has filed a suit claiming the law is unconstitutional because it infringes on U-S foreign policy. Federal courts have agreed and struck down the statute. The case is now before the U-S Supreme Court with a decision expected later this year. It will be crucial for the continued use of sanctions by state or local governments. There is also a bill before Congress that would require a cost-benefit analysis before a sanction is imposed. As Mr. O'Flaherty puts it, legislators will have to aim before they shoot. (signed) NEB/EW/JP 04-Jan-2000 17:45 PM EDT (04-Jan-2000 2245 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .