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Kimberly Ann Elliott
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Entries by Kimberly Ann Elliott

Two More Reasons for Preemptive Contract Sanctions in Syria

(2) Comments | Posted November 27, 2012 | 1:41 PM

Co-written by CGD senior fellow and director for Europe, Owen Barder

With relentlessly bad news out of Syria, the search continues for what the rest of the world can do to put pressure on Assad's regime and to lay the groundwork for a future, legitimate Syrian government. The case for preemptive contract sanctions is becoming ever more compelling. Under this approach, the United States, United Kingdom and other members of the Friends of Syria, would declare that new contracts with the Assad regime are illegitimate and that our courts should not enforce them if a legitimate successor government in Syria repudiates them. This could deter new loans and investments in Syria's oil or other sectors and send a signal to the Assad regime that the economic pressure will not loosen.

We have written before about how this tool could strengthen existing measures against the Assad regime. We've talked about how it is one of the few diplomatic tools left in the global search for ways to intervene. And we've highlighted how they could help get around Russia's veto of global sanctions at the UN Security Council, and deter support from countries that remain supportive of the Assad regime. But fifteen months after President Obama first called for the end of the Bashar al-Assad regime, the violence continues and is spilling over the border into neighboring countries.

So as government officials from the Friends of Syria sanctions working group prepare to meet in Tokyo on November 30, we thought we'd highlight two new developments that reinforce the case for using preemptive contract sanctions in Syria:

First, the civil war in Syria is far from over -- some estimates project that the relentless conflict will drag on for another year or more -- and the Assad regime will have to find ways to continue to finance the military's brutal crackdown on the Syrian people. Just this week, reports show that Iran has started construction of a $10 billion natural gas pipeline to Syria, a sign that some countries are still all too willing to do business with Syria and a move that the Associated Press called a "public show of confidence in Assad's ability to ride out the uprising." New contracts, such as this, and other loans to the Assad regime will leave the next government burdened with obligations incurred for odious reasons -- to support Assad's repression -- and not necessarily in the public interest. Preemptive contract sanctions would relieve a legitimate successor government from having to honor these contracts. Even if Iranian firms would be unlikely to use American or British courts to enforce these contracts, a future Syrian government could nullify them knowing that it could turn to European and American investors to help it rebuild. These sanctions would send a signal to business supporters of Assad that there simply is no future with him in power, and that encouraging him to leave -- sooner rather than later -- is the way to go.

Second, the Syrian opposition groups have united and the newly formed National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces is rapidly receiving backing from the international community, including formal recognition from France, the UK, and a number of countries in the region. The United States and European Union also recognize the new coalition as a legitimate representative of the opposition. With its increased international legitimacy, the Coalition hasn't been shy about its hopes to secure heavier weapons from Western and Arab countries, but many countries -- particularly the United States and United Kingdom -- are reluctant to go down that path. Preemptive contract sanctions provide one of the few nonlethal diplomatic options left for the United State, the United Kingdom and other nations to back up their rhetoric and show concrete support and protection for a future successor government.

For all these reasons, we ask: why wait? We hope that the draft Declaration Regarding Illegitimate Contracts with the Syrian Government will be among the ideas that is seriously considered at the Friends of Syria meet in Tokyo. As the saying goes: the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago; the second best time is...

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The Farm Bill Saga Begins (Again): Will Development Be on the Stage, in the Wings or Out of Luck?

(2) Comments | Posted February 14, 2012 | 4:17 PM

Many in the development research and advocacy communities engaged heavily in the mid-2000s debate over what became the 2008 farm bill and were sorely disappointed with the outcome. At that time, the push for farm bill reform was part of a broader campaign to push the Doha Development Agenda round...

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Another Food Price Spike: Weather Again to Blame for Wheat, Corn Pushed by (Even Worse) Ethanol Policies

(3) Comments | Posted February 17, 2011 | 4:03 PM

The good news for billions of consumers in Asia is that panic has not (yet) hit rice markets. Stocks are higher than in 2008 and no government has restricted rice exports, so rice prices actually dipped a bit in January and are well below 2008 levels.

The bad news for...

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Another Food Crisis?

(2) Comments | Posted August 11, 2010 | 11:05 AM

The decision by Russia to respond to scorching heat and wildfires by restricting wheat exports is threatening to trigger a panic similar to what sent food prices soaring in the first half of 2008. Commodity experts argue that supplies are sufficient to meet needs, thanks to bumper crops...

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Where Is Obama's Trade Policy?

(2) Comments | Posted July 7, 2010 | 3:13 PM

The New York Times yesterday published an editorial titled "Waiting for a Trade Policy," which noted that presidential backing for a single bilateral trade agreement does not a policy make:

"South Korea is an important ally in a dangerous neighborhood, and the White House should push hard to get...
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More HOPE, and HELP, for Haiti, but Congress Still Holds Back

(0) Comments | Posted May 10, 2010 | 12:38 PM

Nearly four months after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, and after receiving a letter from former Presidents William Clinton and George W. Bush, the U.S. Congress seems prepared to expand access for Haitian apparel exports with the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act. This is important because apparel is one...

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Haitian Recovery, Sweatshop Jobs, and the Role of Trade Preferences

(0) Comments | Posted January 26, 2010 | 8:19 AM

Trade deserves some credit for the small but significant improvements to Haiti's economy before the earthquake. U.S. efforts to help Haitians recover from the disaster should include further improvements in our trade preferences program to promote job growth and better working conditions in Haiti.

The day before the devastating earthquake...

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Importing Drugs and Exporting Our Problems

(0) Comments | Posted December 10, 2009 | 10:59 AM

I was going to blog about the illogic of the proposed amendment to health care legislation allowing the importation of lower-priced drugs from Canada, but Ezra Klein of the Washington Post beat me to it. As he notes, referring to floor comments by Senator David Vitter (R-LA):

"The case...
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To Blog or Not to Blog about the WTO Ministerial?

(0) Comments | Posted December 2, 2009 | 4:51 PM

I write about trade so I feel that I should say something about the trade ministers' meeting that concluded yesterday in Geneva. But what is there to say, especially if I want to follow my mother's advice about not saying anything if I can't say something nice? There have been...

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Deja Coup and the Forgotten "Autogolpe"

(1) Comments | Posted July 10, 2009 | 5:44 PM

Adam Thomson, in today's Financial Times, writes of the coup in Honduras as an echo of 1980s violence in Central America. But, in fact, the past is not as distant as much of the coverage of the coup suggests and the seemingly forgotten autogolpe, or "self coup" in Guatemala...

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GAO Report Highlights Costs of U.S. Food Aid Restrictions

(1) Comments | Posted June 5, 2009 | 12:49 PM

According to a testimony before congress yesterday and a new Government Accountability Office report, congressional restrictions on U.S. food aid raise the costs of delivering it by as much as a third and delay it reaching hungry people by up to 100 days. When donors purchase food locally...

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