Miriam Alster/Flash 90

Under a proposed new bill, the US would be required to pressure European trade partners to reject BDS-style economic isolation of Israel.


(Photo: Issam Rimawi/Flash 90)

A Congressional bill seeks to tie a trade agreement with the EU to European rejection of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement. The Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act would require the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to discourage US trade partners from participating in the economic marginalization of Israel. The bill’s authors are especially concerned about members of the European Union, with whom the US is currently negotiating what may be the largest free trade agreement in history.

The bipartisan bill was introduced Tuesday afternoon by Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA). It is directly aimed at countering the influence of the BDS movement, which calls for economic isolation of Israel. Although the movement claims to promote the creation of a “Palestinian” state, its leaders have made numerous statements indicating that their ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel.

Specifically, the bill requires the USTR to use trade negotiations to discourage economic discrimination against Israel, monitors BDS-related activities by foreign companies traded on US stock exchanges, and prohibits US courts from enforcing foreign court judgments against American companies for doing business in Israel. The bill also formally establishes opposition to BDS and similar movements as US policy.

Congressman Juan Vargas

Congressman Juan Vargas

Congressman Roskam indicated his particular concerns about the influence of BDS in Europe in the following terms:

“Today, an alarming number of countries within the European Union and beyond have embraced BDS as a form of economic warfare aimed to cripple Israel’s economy and demonize its very existence. These attacks not only threaten Israel, but commercial relations across the globe. The U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act will ensure that American free trade partners never engage in this harmful and illegitimate political protest against Israel, while also protecting U.S. companies from foreign lawsuits targeting their associations with Israel,” he said.

Congressman Vargas added, “BDS is a harmful political tactic which seeks to undermine and diminish Israel’s economic strength. We need to reassure our commitment to our ally in the region by clearly defining U.S. policy to oppose this practice and dissuade other nations from adopting BDS policies toward Israel.”

The Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act (HR 825) was introduced in the context of ongoing free trade negotiations with the EU. Proponents of the free trade agreement say that it will be the largest such agreement in history. According to the EU’s estimates, it would increase the bloc’s economic output by 0.5%.