Jackson-Vanik amendment

From Academic Kids

According to the 1974 Trade act, the Jackson-Vanik amendment, named for its major co-sponsors, Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-WA) and Rep. Charles Vanik (D-OH), denied Normal Trade Relations to certain countries with non-market economies that restricted emigration rights. Normal trade relations would be extended to a country subject to the law only if the President determined that it complies with the freedom of emigration requirements of the amendment. President Gerald Ford signed the amendment into law on January 3, 1975, after both houses of the United States Congress unanimously voted for its adoption.


In 1972, as the Cold War and the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict were intensifying, the regime of Leonid Brezhnev imposed the so-called "diploma tax" on would-be emigrants who received higher education in the USSR. This measure was apparently designed to combat the brain drain caused by growing emigration of the Soviet Jews and other members of intelligentsia to the West. In some cases, the fee was as high as 20 annual salaries.

This development caused international protests. Twenty-one US Nobel Laureates issued a public statement condemning it as "massive violation of human rights". The Kremlin soon revoked the tax but imposed additional limitations effectively choking emigration, even for family reunification. A case could languish for years in the OVIR (ОВиР) department of the MVD, an often cited but rarely explained official ground for refusal to issue emigration visa were "national security reasons".


Jackson-Vanik was an extraordinary success in securing freedom of emigration from the Soviet Union, even though it did not open the emigration door wide until late-1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to comply with protocols of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Since 1975, more than 500,000 refugees, many of whom were Jews, evangelical Christians and Catholics from the former Soviet Union, have been resettled in the United States. An estimated 1 million Jews have immigrated to Israel during that time.

Jackson-Vanik also led to great changes within the Soviet Union. Other ethnic groups subsequently demanded the right to emigrate, and the ruling Communist Party had to face the fact that there was widespread dissatisfaction with its governance. A supporter of Jackson-Vanik and action to relieve the plight of Soviet Jewry, State Rep. Mark B. Cohen of Philadelphia, said

"The genius of Jackson-Vanik was that it found a constructive long-term way to help solve the problems of late 20th century victims of communism without use of military force. It helped change the direction of American anti-communist movements from a focus on domestic supporters of communism, which had led to McCarthyism, and military involvements, which had led to the quagmire in Vietnam, to a focus on using American economic strength to serve as a new underpinning of American values. It was a brilliant public policy innovation."

Even though the USSR no longer exists, Jackson-Vanik is still in force and applies to, among others, Russia and Ukraine. In these countries it is seen as a pure trade discrimination.



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