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Foreign Media Reaction

Daily Digest

Tuesday, November 5, 1996

U.S. SANCTIONS POLICY: 'TRADE TERRORISM'?


Observers in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa once again inveighed against U.S. trade sanctions policies aimed at punishing regimes in Cuba, Iran and Libya. Commentators said that, in these cases, they found no merit in U.S. policy. They argued that sanctions and embargos have not brought the desired results, and that the Cuban, Iranian and Libyan people--rather than governments--are the ones who suffer. Pundits overseas strongly supported recent European Union retaliatory efforts designed to combat the Helms-Burton Act--which allows U.S. citizens to sue foreign companies using property in Cuba confiscated from them after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. The EU efforts included a request for the formation of a WTO dispute panel in late November to seek settlement between the EU and the U.S., and a EU foreign ministers' decision to let Europeans countersue to recoup damages assessed in U.S. courts. Complaints that the Helms-Burton Act "conflicts with rules for international trade," is "extra-territorial" in dimension--approaching "trade terrorism"--and "mainly meets the interests of hard-core Castro opponents in the U.S. whose votes the president cannot ignore" dominated editorial comment. Analysts held that the strong objection and actions taken by America's allies over the sanctions issue reveals the extent of European "frustration" with the U.S. over trade issues and signals Europe's new-found resolve to challenge the world's leading economic power. Berlin's left-of-center Die Tageszeitung, for example, held, "For more than 50 years, the U.S. has determined the rules of the global economy according to its taste. Only in recent times has the view grown in the EU that a common Europe is strong enough to have a say on an equal basis." Criticism of the U.S. strategy, however, did not inspire observers in the press to offer other alternatives on how to promote the U.S.-stated goal of encouraging greater respect for human rights and democracy, and discouraging state-sponsored terrorism in suspect nations. Only Stockholm's liberal Dagens Nyheter was somewhat understanding of the U.S. position and gave this advice: "In order to make an impression on the United States, the Europeans must show a willingness to oust the Castro dictatorship in order to secure human rights for the Cuban people." One German daily stressed that the Europeans were certainly "not interested in protecting Cuba's revolutionary leader or Iran's mullahs," but "only interested in defending their own interests."

While there was much chest-beating and some claims that a "trade war" between the U.S. and its allies was in "full swing," a few writers weighed in with more hopeful and sobering assessments. German and Italian dailies suggested that the EU member countries "are praying that their countermeasures do not have to be implemented. A trade war is not in the interest of the EU, which prefers free trade." Rotterdam's centrist Algemeen Dagblad drew a similar scenario for Washington: "It is possible, even likely, that the disputed Helms-Burton Act will not be actually implemented...for the Clinton administration prefers to avoid conflicts with important trade partners."

This survey is based on 21 reports from 13 countries, September 12-November 4.

EDITOR: Diana McCaffrey

EUROPE GERMANY: "Rare Show Of European Unanimity"

Alois Berger had this to say in an editorial in left-of- center Die Tageszeitung of Berlin (10/30), "In rare unanimity, the Europeans have now accepted the challenge from the United States. The EU foreign ministers not only protested but they also agreed on sound countermeasures. However, they are certainly not interested in protecting Cuba's revolutionary leader or Iran's mullahs but they are only interested in defending their own interests. Nevertheless, the EU member countries are praying that their countermeasures do not have to be implemented. A trade war is not in the interest of the EU, which prefers free trade. On the contrary, many EU members hope that the U.S. government will return to a more rational policy and the controversial sanctions would be softened in the interest of both sides....

"The anti-boycott rules are also a goal that the EU has set for itself. For more than 50 years, the United States has determined the rules of the global economy according to its taste. Only in recent times has the view grown in the EU that a common Europe is strong enough to have a say on an equal basis. However, the EU governments had not dared to implement this view in their policies.... But the real test is still to come. The controversy about the imports of 'hormone meat' from the United States will show whether the new self-confidence from Luxembourg was only a flash in the pan."

BRITAIN: "Europe Challenges Anti-Cuba Laws At World Trade Body"

The conservative Times noted (10/2): "The European Union yesterday raised the stakes in its dispute with Washington over America's anti-Cuban trade laws by deciding to challenge the action before the new World Trade Organization. The move, by the EU's foreign ministers, was a break with the cautious approach adopted last spring when the U.S. Congress angered Europe by passing legislation to punish foreign firms that trade with Cuba.... Yesterday's decision reflects growing frustrations in Europe over what is seen as Washington's tendency to act alone on international issues, without consulting Europe."

"EU Goes To WTO Over Cuba Law"

The independent Financial Times concluded (10/2): "The case poses a sensitive test of the WTO's legal and political authority.... The EU's display of resolve appears partly to reflect mounting frustration that Washington is not taking it seriously as a political force. Resentment has been exacerbated by President Bill Clinton's failure to invite European representatives to the Middle East summit in Washington."

FRANCE: "EU Reaches Compromise Over Helms-Burton"

Pierre Bocev wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/29): "A European bill to counter the U.S. anti-Cuban legislation has been adopted, despite objections raised by Denmark.... The EU's credibility was at stake in matters of international commerce relations."

ITALY: "Compromise?"

An editorial in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (10/30) pointed out: "This seems like a magic moment for Fidel Castro and, conversely, a rough period for Clinton and his crusade for human rights in Cuba. But that's not quite how things are.... Even Europeans, who protest the extraterritorial nature of the recent U.S. legislation, have a great interest in avoiding a tug-of-war with the United States on the issue.... Clinton's envoy Eizenstat, traveling around Europe in these past few days, proposed a 'compromise':

"If the Europeans adopt a code of conduct in their economic relations with Cuba, the United States will drop the act. The problem is to understand what Clinton means by a code of conduct. Within limits, European interests might coincide with this and greater European pressure on Castro to respect his people's rights might turn out to be more useful than American blackmail."

"'Trade War' In Full Swing"

A report from Luxembourg in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica held (10/29): "The 'trade war' between the European Union and the United States is in full swing on the eve of the American elections. 'Hostilities' started with the adoption of the Helms-Burton Act.... Indeed, the truce over the last few weeks was not due to political calculations--such as 'not interfering' with the U.S. electoral campaign--but rather to internal difficulties. Until now it was Denmark which blocked the enforcement of the decision which had already been taken by the 15 states before the summer.... The problem of the legal foundations for retaliation has then been solved through a gimmick.... The European Commission will present its complaint to the WTO on November 20, requesting the establishment of a panel."

"EU Files Official Complaint At WTO Against Helms-Burton"

Leading financial Il Sole 24-Ore commented (10/17): "The script has been followed. Yesterday the European Union presented its official complaint against the Helms-Burton Act to the WTO. And the Americans blocked it with a procedural move which postpones the setting up of the WTO panel.... On November 20 Washington will not be able to avoid the creation of the arbitration panel.... The partial postponement was not enough. Canada and Mexico resorted to NAFTA.... Brussels' legal claims have per force a weak base. If Washington is accused of imposing its national laws in other countries, such extraterritoriality deals entirely with investments, which are an area outside the WTO jurisdiction. Therefore, the European appeal consists of denouncing the trade effects of Helms-Burton and of limitations on the free movement of people because of the visa issue. Even EU sources admit that they would not be surprised if the panel gives a negative judgement.... More than a concrete act, Brussels' request seems more an instrument of political pressure on the United States.... And yesterday the Europeans, notwithstanding the 'slap' on Cuba, backed the United States in the dispute between Kodak and Fuji."

BELGIUM: "The Thaw Has Frozen"

Under the headline above, foreign editor Sus van Elzen recalled the events leading to the passage of Helm-Burton and concluded in liberal weekly Knack (10/30), "For the time being--until November 5--Bill Clinton needs the votes of the--let's say--ultra-rightist Cubans in Miami. This shows how 15 percent of Miami's population is succeeding in taking hostage Washington D.C.'s Cuba policy and sacrificing the U.S.' relationship with its allies."

"Ministers Respond To Helms-Burton"

Independent Le Soir (10/29) reported: "After long discussions, European ministers adopted a joint position regarding the Helms-Burton Act. In response to this act,of which they criticize the extra-territorial character, the (ministers) adopted texts prohibiting companies from abiding by U.S. courts. Those provisions will also allow European companies that are being prosecuted under to the Helms-Burton Act to claim damages to the detriment of U.S. companies established on the EU's territory."

CANADA: "Canada's Juvenile Anti-American Nose-Thumbing"

Marcus Gee opined in the leading Toronto Globe and Mail (10/2): "[Helms- Burton] has become a rallying point for those who oppose Washington's high-handed treatment of Cuba.... Canada and other allies of the United States say the law violates international treaties by applying U.S. law to foreign companies. Non-government groups say the law hurts ordinary Cubans without making their government any more democratic. They have a point. Helms-Burton attempts to do by writ what Washington has failed to do through diplomacy: Persuade its allies to stop trading with and investing in Cuba. Like the embargo, it helps keep Mr. Castro in power by handing him a scapegoat for Cuba's troubles. The legislation is legally questionable and tactically dumb. But opposing Helms-Burton should not mean supporting Mr. Castro.... Because the Americans are so hard on him, we go out of our way to be soft.... We think this proves our independence. In fact, it underline s our reliance. Only a country with a colonial mentality would resort to this sort of juvenile anti-American nose- thumbing."

THE NETHERLANDS: "EU Correct In Exposing This Short- Sightedness"

Rotterdam's centrist Algemeen Dagblad (10/30) maintained in an editorial, "It is possible, even likely that the disputed Helms-Burton Act will not be actually implemented...for the Clinton administration prefers to avoid conflicts with important trade partners. That was also the reason why Clinton, who initially was against the act, suspended the implementation for six months.... But the European Union rightly so did not allow itself to be blinded by this half-hearted measure.... The EU decided to impose countermeasures.... This signal is very clear. It is hard for Europe to accept the American measures, which are supposed to be encouraging democracy in Cuba, but which in reality mainly meet the interests of hard-core Castro opponents in the United States whose votes the president cannot ignore. And we are speaking about a legislation that has an extra-territorial dimension which conflicts with rules for international trade..... The EU is fully right to expose this short-sightedness."

SWEDEN: "Eizenstat In Sweden"

Ambassador Eizenstat's meeting with representatives of the Stockholm print media on October 30, has, to date, resulted in news items in two major Stockholm dailies. Liberal Dagens Nyheter said (11/1): "According to Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, a Swedish company that is interested in establishing in Cuba must not use confiscated American property in Cuba.... Ambassador Eizenstat, who is traveling in Europe in order to remove some misunderstandings with regards to the American trade policy vis-a-vis Cuba, says that the purpose of the law is to safeguard American property in Cuba, (rather than to punish foreign companies). He explains that the law will not forbid Swedish companies to invest in Cuba...and even if a company had used confiscated property in Cuba, it would not be affected by the Helms-Burton Act, if there is proof that the establishment in Cuba took place before the law came into effect.... Eizenstat has during his stay in Sweden met with Swedish businessmen and politicians, among them Pierre Schori, minister of foreign assistance, and Bjorn von Sydow, minister of foreign trade. 'I am very impressed by what Sweden has done to promote democracy in Cuba. If every EU country did what Sweden has done, we would be very far down the road,' Ambassador Eizenstat said."

"No American Sanctions Against Sweden"

Business-oriented Dagens Industri observed (10/31): "The Swedes can remain calm. The United States will not punish those companies that have business in Cuba. That is the message from Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, who has been sent to Sweden by President Clinton to explain the U.S. Cuban policy....

"Ambassador Eizenstat's mission to the EU countries is twofold: to explain the American ban on investments in Cuba and to secure European support for promoting democracy in Cuba. With regards to the latter issue, Sweden was given praise for its efforts by Ambassador Eizenstat, who said that Swedish companies will not be affected by the sanctions as long as their investments are not made on property which rightly belongs to U.S. citizens."

"EU's Reaction Was Exemplary"

Conservative Svenska Dagbladet (10/30) said, "The criticism voiced against the U.S. actions certainly does not originate in any sympathy for the boycotted dictatorships, it rather is a principled rejection of extraterritorial legislation and secondary boycotts. The EU's reaction was exemplary. After having filed a complaint with the WTO, a proposal was drawn up to prohibit EU business companies from observing American boycott legislation.... It is uncertain how effective the EU legislation will be, but as a protest and a demonstration of strength it is welcome in spite of its being questionable from both a principled and practical point of view."

"Europeans Must Show Willingness To Oust Castro"

According to liberal Dagens Nyheter (10/30), "In order to make an impression on the United States, the Europeans must show a willingness to oust the Castro dictatorship in order to secure human rights for the Cuban people."

LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN CUBA: "Hysterical Reaction Of Yankee Spokesman"

Communist Party Granma said (9/12): "The United States seems to feel great irritation at this 'epidemic' of rejection of the Helms-Burton law and as a result the characteristic fury of someone who has to scratch hard is beginning to manifest itself. Nicholas Burns, the spokesman of the Department of State, reacted hysterically yesterday and declared that his country was very dissatisfied with its allies in Latin America, Canada, and Europe because of their attitude about this anti-Cuban legislation. The itching of the North American spokesman seemed to get worse as he referred to Fidel Castro, heaping insults on him and especially expressing anger at the way he is received around the world."

GUATEMALA: "The Vatican And The Helms-Burton Law"

Left-of-center La Hora (10/19) ran a commentary by director Oscar Clemente Marroquin: "No one in history has had such a defined stance against Marxism than Pope John Paul II, because of his experience in Poland. It is not the same thing to have just any European leader criticize the United States because of...Helms-Burton...to have the pope do so, he who is now being recognized as the most important influence in the breakdown of Communism in eastern Europe. The Vatican has joined the almost unanimous position of the international community in condemning the United States for passing legislation that has no basis in international law or politics. The pope...considers the attitude of the United States in passing...Helms-Burton to be in conflict with the principles that inspire international law, and he has voiced his opinion directly, leaving Washington with practically no allies in this outrage against, not Fidel Castro, but the Cuban people who suffer the consequences of the embargos against the island....

"We must understand that the restrictions the United States has placed on Cuba and Nicaragua have not produced the desired results.... Extremists and fools will not admit to this because they still believe the hoax...planned so that Republicans and Democrats in the may procure votes from the Cuban community in Florida....

"But this law, censured by the international community, is putting the United States at odds with the rest of the world because it is more than a coercive strategy against Castro's regime. It is an intolerable abuse by those who want to force their criteria on the rest of the world."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

MALAYSIA: "U.S. Sanctions: Extraterritorial Laws"

The government-influenced, financial Business Times (10/31) commented: "The decision of the European Union to make it illegal for Europeans to obey Washington's anti-Cuban Helms-Burton Act and the Mexican law aimed at protecting its citizens against all effects of the U.S. act should be emulated by others around the world. It will help send a clear message to Washington that America, the most powerful nation in the world, cannot take other countries for granted. It should respect the sovereignty and independence of other countries and it should not extend its laws beyond its borders.... The Helms-Burton law, however, is not the only U.S. law that is to be applied extraterritorially. The D'Amato Law, which intends to punish companies, no matter where their home state is, if they invest more than U.S. $40 million...in Iran and Libya is another example.... The United States seems to apply the law of the jungle--where the mighty reign and force their will on other animals. In addition, the United States continues to act like a bully.... Others, including Malaysia, have spoken out against these laws, Malaysia has openly opposed the U.S. decision to sanction countries engaged in investment activities with Cuba, Libya and Iran. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had said that Malaysia has the right to make its own decision whether to invest in Iran even though there was a possibility that the United States may take action.... There appears to be one voice, that of opposition to the laws from around the world. It is time Washington paid heed to the rest of the world. The United States is not the center of the universe, never was and never will be, even though it may be the most powerful country and the only superpower left in the world."

VIETNAM: "Helms-Burton Act: Trade Terrorism"

Army newspaper Quan Doi Nhan Dan (The People's Army, 11/4) described the U.S. Helms-Burton Act as a "trade terrorism" law directed against not only Cuba but also many other countries, including close U.S. allies in the Group of Seven: "Many seem to think that the existing generation in power in the United States is a younger one which may be more realistic and sober-minded than the previous one. However, it is the promulgation of the Helms-Burton Act that has led to a change in those people's minds. As a matter of fact, the White House has not entirely dropped its wish to be the father of the world as yet, and instead still wants to impose its subjective thought on others. How can such an arrogant law 'survive' in the present multi-polar world? Now is no longer the time when the United States can monopolize everything because of its monopoly on the atomic bomb."

AFRICA NIGERIA: "U.S. Should Subject Itself To WTO Adjudication"

Port Harcourt's independent Daily Sunray (10/1) ran an editorial on the Helms-Burton Act and legislation aimed at punishing Iran and Libya: "America's position on terrorism deserves support, but there is much that is wrong with the two U.S. laws and the platform on which they are passed.... It is said that Clinton went along with those laws because of the impending U.S. presidential election. Can those laws be so easily repealed after the election? No. The only way out of the bind is for the United States to subject itself to adjudication by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to which the EU, Canada and the Rio Group have threatened to drag it." ##


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