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Diplomacy in Action

89. Statement, Under Secretary of Commerce Eizenstat, regarding U.S.-EC understanding (April 11, 1997)


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TEXT: EIZENSTAT STATEMENT ON U.S.-EU HELMS/BURTON
AGREEMENT (EU will suspend WTO case)

April 11, 1997

 

Washington -- The United States and the European Union (EU), defusing for now a major trade dispute, have agreed to work together to develop investment rules involving the acquisition or dealings in property confiscated by the Cuban government in contravention of international law.

The U.S.-EU understanding, announced in Washington April 11 by Under Secretary of Commerce Stuart E. Eizenstat, calls for the European Community to immediately suspend its challenge in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the U.S. Libertad Act, also know as Helms/Burton, after the law's two principal sponsors in the Congress.

The understanding, reached after months of negotiations, "will help promote a transition to democracy and the protection of property rights in Cuba and avoids bringing a foreign policy dispute before the WTO in Geneva," said Eizenstat in a statement, issued April 11.

Eizenstat said the United States and the EU would work to develop an agreement by October 15 on "disciplines which would inhibit and deter the acquisition of investments which have been expropriated in contravention of international law."

As this effort moves forward, the Clinton Administration will "open a dialogue" with members of Congress toward amending the Helms/Burton law to allow waivers of provisions that the EU sought to contest in the WTO. The administration will seek the changes in the law only after the EU has agreed to the new "disciplines," Eizenstat said.

Following is the text of Eizenstat's statement:

(Begin text)

I am pleased to announce today that the United States and the European Commission have reached an understanding, which the Commission will submit to the Member States, that the two sides will work cooperatively to develop binding disciplines on acquisitions and dealings in property confiscated by Cuba and other governments in contravention of international law. The Understanding also calls for the EU to immediately suspend its challenge in the World Trade Organization against the Libertad Act and other components of our Cuba legislation. This understanding will help to promote a transition to democracy and the protection of property rights in Cuba and avoids bringing a foreign policy dispute before the WTO in Geneva.

For 37 years and through eight different Administrations, United States policy toward Cuba has been clear and consistent. Building on this foundation, this Administration, working on a bipartisan basis with Congress, will continue to seek a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. Cuba remains the sole non-democratic government in the Western Hemisphere and the Castro government continually violates international norms on human rights. Castro remains a brutal and repressive dictator who suppresses all the freedoms we and most countries in the world enjoy. The United States will continue to highlight the repressive nature of Castro's regime.

In early 1996, following the shootdown of unarmed civilian planes and the murder of U.S. citizens by Cuban MIGs in broad daylight and without justification, Congress passed and the President signed the Libertad Act. This Act is a reasonable statute which seeks to promote democracy in Cuba and to protect the property rights of thousands of American citizens whose property was confiscated without compensation by the Castro regime. I have spent literally hundreds of hours explaining and clarifying the specifics of the Act to our trading partners, their private sector and NGOs throughout Europe and the Americas.

This Administration has made significant progress working with our allies to promote democracy in Cuba. In December, the European Union adopted a Common Position that conditions future political and economic ties between the EU and Cuba on progress with regard to human rights and political freedom. The Ibero-American Summit has taken a strong stand in favor of democracy throughout the Hemisphere, including Cuba. A number of leading business organizations have endorsed business practices in Cuba which will benefit Cuban workers, and not the government. Dozens of NGOs have increased their coordination and activities in developing programs that promote democracy in Cuba. Because of these new initiatives, the President announced on January 3 his expectation to continue to suspend Title III of the Act so long as our allies continue their stepped up efforts to promote democracy in Cuba. We reiterate that commitment today and will continue to work closely with our allies in this endeavor.

In today's understanding, the United States and the European Union have pledged to develop disciplines which will inhibit and deter the acquisition of investments which have been expropriated in contravention of international law. Our goal in this endeavor is to globalize strong standards for the enhanced protection of property rights. The United States and the EU will make best efforts to develop this agreement by October 15. As this process unfolds, the Administration will open a dialogue with the Congress with a view toward obtaining an amendment providing the President with waiver authority for Title IV of the Libertad Act once these bilateral consultations are completed and the EU has adhered to these agreed disciplines.

As we develop these disciplines and other investment principles, the EU will suspend its WTO case. The agreement with the EU clearly states our continuing obligation to enforce Title IV of the Libertad Act during the interim period.

This understanding serves a number of important U.S. interests. It creates the first real opportunity to develop multilateral disciplines deterring and inhibiting investment in confiscated property and the first time the EU has agreed to develop such international norms. The agreement avoids placing our foreign policy interests before the WTO, an organization designed to facilitate trade, not arbitrate foreign policy disputes. It protects existing and future property claims in Cuba by U.S. citizens. And it better enables the United States and the EU to work together to further our ultimate goal of a democratic Cuba.

This understanding represents the beginning and not an end. An agreement on concrete, detailed principles will require enormous efforts by U.S. and EC negotiators as well as continual consultations with the Congress to shape and define U.S. negotiating objectives. We will do everything in our power to reach a multilateral agreement on these disciplines, but a final agreement on these issues is not assured. It is critical that the United States and the EU work together, and not at cross purposes. This understanding provides the mechanism to do so.

We also discussed the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, where both sides recognized that it is in their combined interests to counter the threat to international security posed by Libya and Iran. The Understanding recognizes non-proliferation measures adopted by the EU and in particular recent measures taken with respect to Iran following the Mykonos decision in Germany. It also reiterates the Administration's intent to work with the Europeans to convince Iran and Libya to cease their objectionable behavior. The United States will continue to work with the EU toward the objectives of meeting the terms of the statute for granting EU Member States waivers under the Act. We have made no commitments to grant waivers under ILSA.

A number of Congressional leaders have been instrumental in helping develop and further the idea of global standards on expropriated property. Chairman Helms has long been a leading voice for strengthened protection of property rights internationally. Senator Coverdell spearheaded and shaped this current initiative, building on the important work of Senator Helms. I have continually relied on Senator Graham for his wise counsel and deep understanding of these issues and have consulted regularly with a wide variety of leaders on the House side including Chairman Gilman, Chairman Burton, Chairman Hamilton, Chairman Bereuter, Representative Menendez and others. Their staffs have been instrumental. On ILSA, we have worked closely with Senators D'Amato and Kennedy and their staffs and will continue to do so to work towards the objectives of that Act.

I would also like to recognize Sir Leon Brittan and his negotiating team for taking a constructive and creative approach to this dispute and for preventing unnecessary tensions. I would also like to restate our commitment to continue every effort to support the peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba and to continue to work with our allies on concrete steps toward that goal. Much work remains. But today, the United States and the EU have embarked on an initiative which will have an important and long lasting impact.

 



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