Postponing the crisis on Cuba policy Tentative deal: Europe agrees not to protest U.S. punitive laws, yet.

April 15, 1997

ARDUOUS NEGOTIATING by Under Secretary of Commerce Stuart E. Eizenstat induced the European Union to delay, from yesterday to Oct. 15, its protest of U.S. laws purporting to govern the behavior of foreigners outside the U.S.

This does not end the dispute over the Helms-Burton Act, which sanctions firms anywhere that operate on property that Cuba's Communist government expropriated. It delays the crisis for six months, allowing time for resolution, but no assurance of it.

The European Union was on the verge of protesting the U.S. law as a restraint on trade to the World Trade Organization. The U.S. was on the verge of repudiating WTO jurisdiction, on the ground that the purpose of the law is political, not commercial. Whether the two-year-old WTO, designed to resolve trade disputes and foster world trade, can withstand such shocks from the powers that created it is questionable.

The deal that Mr. Eizenstat cooked up with European governments commits them to fashion a policy dealing with Cuba's expropriations of private property. It wins a pledge from the Clinton administration of indefinitely suspending implementation of some Helms-Burton Act sanctions. It pledges the administration to try to persuade Congress to amend laws infringing the sovereignty of other states.

There are two catches. One: Congress has not agreed to it. The other: Several European governments say the deal does not go far enough. They object to the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which attempts to force others to embargo states Congress considers terrorist.

The verdict of a German court implicating Iran's rulers in murders in Germany may soften European opposition to the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. Nonetheless, the fundamental dispute between Europe and the U.S. is not resolved, merely postponed.

The world would be a better place if the United States would desist from trying to set the policies of other nations and if Europeans faced up to human rights deprivations in Cuba. A chance has been created for both to happen, but only a chance.

Pub Date: 4/15/97

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