Jackson–Vanik amendment

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The Jackson–Vanik amendment is a 1974 provision in United States federal law, intended to affect U.S. trade relations with countries with non-market economies (originally, countries of the Communist bloc) that restrict freedom of emigration and other human rights. It is believed that it was a response to the Soviet Union's "diploma taxes" levied on Jews attempting to emigrate,[1] although the amendment does not specifically mention Jews and the tax applied to all Soviet citizens, not only Jews.

The amendment, named after its major co-sponsors Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson of Washington in the Senate and Charles Vanik of Ohio in the House of Representatives, both Democrats, is contained in Title IV of the 1974 Trade Act. The amendment passed both houses of the United States Congress unanimously. President Gerald Ford signed the bill into law with the adopted amendment on January 3, 1975. It remained valid until 2012, though it was regularly granted a waiver vis-a-vis the Russian Federation.[2] In 2011, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged a repeal of the law.[3] On 16 November 2012 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill which would repeal the Jackson–Vanik amendment for Russia and Moldova.[4] The law repealing the Jackson–Vanik amendment was signed together with the Magnitsky bill by President Obama on December 14, 2012.[5][6][7][8]


The amendment denies most favored nation status to certain countries with non-market economies that restrict emigration, which is considered a human right. Permanent normal trade relations can be extended to a country subject to the law only if the President determines that it complies with the freedom of emigration requirements of the amendment. However, the President has the authority to grant a yearly waiver to the provisions of Jackson-Vanik, and these waivers were granted to the People's Republic of China starting in the late 1970s and in later decades, to Vietnam and Laos.

The core provision of the amendment was codified as 19 U.S.C. 2432(a), which provides as follows:

(a) Actions of nonmarket economy countries making them ineligible for normal trade relations, programs of credits, credit guarantees, or investment guarantees, or commercial agreements
To assure the continued dedication of the United States to fundamental human rights, and notwithstanding any other provision of law, on or after January 3, 1975, products from any nonmarket economy country shall not be eligible to receive nondiscriminatory treatment (normal trade relations), such country shall not participate in any program of the Government of the United States which extends credits or credit guarantees or investment guarantees, directly or indirectly, and the President of the United States shall not conclude any commercial agreement with any such country, during the period beginning with the date on which the President determines that such country -
(1) denies its citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate;
(2) imposes more than a nominal tax on emigration or on the visas or other documents required for emigration, for any purpose or cause whatsoever; or
(3) imposes more than a nominal tax, levy, fine, fee, or other charge on any citizen as a consequence of the desire of such citizen to emigrate to the country of his choice, and ending on the date on which the President determines that such country is no longer in violation of paragraph (1), (2), or (3).


Exit USSR visa of the type 2. For those who received permission to leave the USSR forever and lost Soviet citizenship. Not all who wanted were able to receive this kind of exit visa

In 1972 as the Cold War and the ongoing Arab–Israeli conflict were intensifying, the Brezhnev government imposed the so-called "diploma tax" on would-be emigrants who received a higher education in the USSR. While the professed justification for this tax was to repay state expenses for public education, this measure was designed to combat the brain drain caused by the growing emigration of Soviet Jews and other members of the intelligentsia to the West.

This development caused international protests. Twenty-one United States Nobel Laureates issued a public statement condemning it as a "massive violation of human rights." The Kremlin soon revoked the tax but imposed additional limitations, effectively choking off 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 the refusal to issue an emigration visa was "national security reasons."


Soviet Union[edit]

At first the Jackson–Vanik amendment did little to help free Soviet Jewry. The number of exit visas declined after the passing of the amendment, as the USSR felt the external pressure was harming its credibility. However, in the late-1980s Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to comply with the 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 one million Soviet Jews have immigrated to Israel in 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.

Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky wrote in his 2004 book The Case for Democracy:

"...Kissinger saw Jackson's amendment as an attempt to undermine plans to smoothly carve up the geopolitical pie between the superpowers. It was. Jackson believed that the Soviets had to be confronted, not appeased.

Andrei Sakharov was another vociferous opponent of détente. He thought it swept the Soviet's human rights record under the rug in the name of improved superpower relations.... One message he would consistently convey to these foreigners (the press) was that human rights must never be considered a humanitarian issue alone. For him, it was also a matter of international security. As he succinctly put it: "A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors." (p.3)


On December 6, 2005 the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged the United States House of Representatives to delay approval of Ukraine's graduation from the amendment. ADL National Director Abraham Foxman wrote: "We expect more from democratic states than we do from totalitarian ones. This year alone has seen a steep increase in acts of violence and vandalism against Jews across Ukraine. There have been attempts to ban everything from Jewish organizations to Jewish holy texts. The university MAUP... actively promotes anti-Semitism of the most vicious kind." [9]

People's Republic of China[edit]

Until the accession of the PRC to the World Trade Organization in December 2001 the PRC was covered by the provisions of Jackson-Vanik. Although the President of the United States, starting in the late 1970s, used the waiver provisions of the amendment to grant normal trade relations trade status, the existence of the amendment meant that there was a congressional effort to overturn this waiver each year, creating a yearly controversy especially during the 1990s after the Tiananmen protests of 1989. Congress specifically removed the PRC from coverage by Jackson-Vanik in the late 1990s as part of its entry into the World Trade Organization, as the provisions of Jackson-Vanik were inconsistent with WTO rules.

Republic of Kazakhstan[edit]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment remained in force and applied to the fifteen newly independent states. Kazakhstan’s Jewish community reportedly requested the US to cancel Jackson Vanik amendment for Kazakhstan. In an article titled “A Relic of the Cold War,” journalist Robert Guttman refers to the Amendment as an “outdated and rather meaningless piece of legislation.” Rather than permanently repealing the law, the U.S. Congress passes annual waivers that graduate Kazakhstan, along with fourteen other states, from the provisions of Jackson-Vanik.

United States of America[edit]

The U.S. has its own restrictions upon emigration with its Expatriation Tax.

U.S. legal challenge[edit]

In April 2011, American University in Moscow professor Eduard Lozansky and former Reagan administration official Antony Salvia filed a federal lawsuit in Washington D.C. against the Obama administration arguing the law is illegal.[10][11]


In 2011, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged a repeal of the law.[3] On 16 November 2012 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill which would repeal the Jackson–Vanik amendment for Russia (and Moldova). After the approval by the Senate, the law repealing the effects of the Jackson–Vanik amendment on Russia and Moldova was signed together with Magnitsky bill by President Obama on December 14, 2012. It remains in effect for other former Soviet countries.[5][6][7][8] It has never addressed the expatriation tax in the United States itself.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.cfr.org/trade/jackson-vanik-amendment/p18844 Jackson-Vanik Amendment
  2. ^ End a Cold War Relic, New York Times, 15 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Biden urges repeal of Jackson-Vanik amendment", Voice of Russia. March 14, 2011. Accessed June 6, 2011
  4. ^ http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/jackson-vanik-repeal-combined-with-magnitsky-act-passed-by-us-house/471587.html
  5. ^ a b "Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 6156". Whitehouse.gov. 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  6. ^ a b Andrey Fedyashin (15 December 2012). "Russia-US: Normalization fraught with conflictill". The Moscow Times. The Voice of Russia. Retrieved 26 December 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Obama signs Magnitsky Act linked with Jackson-Vanik Amendment termination". Interfax. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Obama Signs Magnitsky Bill". Reuters. The Moscow Times. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2012. 
  9. ^ ADL to House of Representatives: Delay Granting Ukraine Normal Trade Relations
  10. ^ "Two US citizens sue President over Jackson-Vanik amendment", Mamonov Roman. Voice of Russia. April 20, 2011. Accessed June 7, 2011
  11. ^ "Jackson-Vanik law challenged in court", UPI. April 21, 2011. Accessed June 7, 2011

Further reading[edit]

  • Brumley, Robert H. (1990). "Jackson–Vanik: Hard Facts, Bad Law?". Boston University International Law Journal 8 (2): 363–372. 
  • Jochnick, Christopher B.; Zinner, Josh (1991). "Linking Trade Policy to Free Emigration: The Jackson–Vanik Amendment". Harvard Human Rights Journal 4 (1): 128–151. 
  • Korey, William (1988). "The Jackson–Vanik Amendment in Perspective". Soviet Jewish Affairs 18 (1): 29–47. doi:10.1080/13501678808577593. 
  • Lazin, Fred A. (2011). "Jewish Influence in American Foreign Policy: American Jewry, Israel and the Issue of Soviet Jewry, 1968–1989". The Lawyer Quarterly 3 (1): 157–169. 
  • McMahon, Michael S. (1980). "The Jackson–Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974: An Assessment after Five Years". Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 18 (3): 525–556. 

External links[edit]