SANCTIONS FLEXIBILITY SOUGHT \ CLINTON AIDES, SENATORS MEET ON CURBING TRADE PENALTIES

SANCTIONS FLEXIBILITY SOUGHT \ CLINTON AIDES, SENATORS MEET ON CURBING TRADE PENALTIES

Fueled by the latest difficulties encountered by the State and Commerce departments in sanctioning India and Pakistan, a bipartisan consensus is being sought by the Clinton administration and a group of leading senators on legislation to curb future U.S. trade sanctions.

Two top Clinton officials, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Undersecretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat, met with a bipartisan group of senators in the Capitol Hill office of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., on Tuesday to discuss anti-sanctions legislation that is pending on several fronts.''We in the executive branch feel very strongly that there needs to be additional flexibility, additional discretion, additional waivers in order to be able to use the sanctions in a way that the authors intended,'' Mr. Talbott said in a recent press briefing on the India and Pakistan situation.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is introducing a short but simple bill that would allow the president to impose none, some or all of the economic sanctions that are now largely mandatory under a 1994 anti-missile proliferation law sponsored by Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio.

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., a senior member of both the Foreign Affairs and Select Intelligence committees, said Tuesday that he plans to attach an anti-sanctions bill co-sponsored in the House by Reps. Philip Crane, R-Ill., and Lee H. Hamilton, D-Ind., to an agriculture spending bill that is making its way to the president's desk.

Sen. Lugar said in an interview that Mr. Clinton had personally sought out the senator during a White House ceremony to express support for the bill, which would overlay a cost-benefit analysis on any future unilateral trade sanctions Congress may seek to impose.

SENDING RIGHT MESSAGE

''Sanctions that are ineffective do not send a message of U.S. resolve or U.S. commitment. They send a message of U.S. irrelevance,'' Mr. Eizenstat said in a recent House hearing on sanctions policy.

The bill is being pushed by a coalition of big U.S. multinational corporations that organized a lobby group a year and half ago called USA*Engage. Bill Lane, a lobbyist for Caterpillar Inc., is chairman of the group. Frank Kittredge, president of the National Foreign Affairs Council, a group that gets its funding from big U.S. firms, is vice chairman.

The effort is effectively a political counter attack to two major trade sanctions bills enacted by the 104th Congress after Republicans won control of the House for the first time in 52 years, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act and the Helms-Burton Libertad Act that applied sanctions on companies doing business in Cuba.

These and other sanction-oriented foreign policy initiatives prompted Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb., to call the House International Relations Committee, ''a sanctions-inspired committee.''

'IMPORTANT TOOL'

Rep. Hamilton said, ''It's important to recognize that sanctions are an important tool. But I have come to the view that sanctions more often than not hurt U.S. interests.''

Sen. Lugar had said last week he would offer the anti-sanctions measure as an amendment to Defense Department authorizing legislation. But that bill became a political football this week as China critics sought to attach anti-China amendments to it on the eve of President Clinton's departure for a week long trip to China and a summit meeting in Beijing.

Sen. Lugar said the bill had been rewritten in some areas to address needs and concerns of the administration. A Commerce Department task force led by Mr. Eizenstat has been developing policy on sanctions.

''We've accommodated most of their requests,'' Sen. Lugar said.

A key political concern in the Senate is whether the bill will apply to existing sanctions law or future sanctions. Sen. Lugar said he is trying to keep it focused on future sanctions in hopes of not antagonizing the likes of Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and others who have a great deal vested in last year's bills.

''We are talking prospective. We are not talking about attacking anybody's bill that's on the books now,'' he said. ''Because if you take on each of the specific sanctions bills, Cuba, Iran, India, Pakistan, all of the supporters of each of these are in a coalition against the whole business,'' Sen. Lugar said.

UNNECESSARY FIGHTS

Rep. Crane described the bill recently as an effort to stop the United States from getting into unnecessary trade fights with trading partners with which the United States may have foreign policy disputes.

''It's designed to cause a little pause when you get the desire to punch the guy out at the bar next to you. Who knows? He may be a karate champion,'' Rep. Crane said.

Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Ill., a free-trade voice in the House, praised the bill saying, ''It's the type of sanctions bill that won't hurt U.S. exports. The purpose of that bill is to stem the tide of sanctions.''