U.S. moves to open Iran, Libya, Sudan markets

by Teresa Acklin
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   WASHINGTON — The Clinton administration recently announced a change in its unilateral economic sanctions policy that the U.S. Department of Agriculture said could result in the sale of wheat, corn, rice and vegetable oils to Bulgaria's wheat trade pressured by ongoing Kosovo crisis Iran, Libya and the Sudan.

   The exemption of agricultural exports from sanctions against the three countries, the U.S.D.A. said, "under the best possible circumstances" could mean the sale of an additional 1 million tonnes of wheat and 1 million tonnes of corn.

   The White House said the President would exempt commercial sales of agricultural commodities and products, as well as medicine and medical equipment, from existing sanctions "where we have the discretion to do so, by modifying licensing policies to permit case-by-case review of specific proposals."

   The President also will extend the new policy to future unilateral economic sanctions "unless he determines that our national interest requires otherwise," the White House said.

   Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman emphasized that the White House action does not mean automatic approval of agricultural sales to Iran, Libya or the Sudan. "But it does give U.S. producers and exporters an opportunity to compete in additional markets," he said.

   Exporters would be required to apply for a license to sell bulk agricultural commodities under criteria still under inter-agency discussion.

   The U.S.D.A. estimated that opening the Iran, Libya and Sudan markets could mean U.S. bulk commodity exports with a value of U.S.$500 million a year. That was based on the total size of the three import markets and the commodities in which the United States is competitive.

   The largest market is Iran, which imports up to U.S.$3 billion of grain a year, followed by Libya at U.S.$1.2 billion, the U.S.D.A. said.

   The National Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates and U.S. Grains Council, long-time advocates of change in U.S. sanctions policy, welcomed the administration's announcement, and urged the lifting of sanctions against Cuba as well. Existing sanctions, the groups said, have shut U.S. wheat growers out of approximately 10% of the world wheat market.