By Richard McGregor -Financial Times
Washington – Leading US business groups are going public with their opposition to the unilateral imposition of new sanctions by the White House against Russia, saying they would harm American workers and cost jobs.
The US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have taken the unusual step of buying advertising space in lased national newspapers on Thursday to object to fresh measures.
The initiative comes amid renewed discussion within the White House of the need to lift pressure on Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, over Moscow?s continued destabilisation of Ukraine.
The addition of public pressure from US business could stay the hand of the US as well, ahead of a European summit in Brussels on Friday when fresh measures could have been announced.
?There has been a long and bipartisan business consensus in favour of multilateral approaches when dealing with foreign policy challenges,? said Linda Dempsey, the vice-president for international affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.
Ms Dempsey said the association did not object to sanctions per se and understood the need to take measures to reduce tension in Ukraine, but that unilateral measures would not work.
US business still chafes at the memory of America?s unilateral grain embargo placed on the then Soviet Union after Moscow?s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980.
?President Reagan recognised this reality three decades ago when he lifted the ineffective grain embargo on the Soviet Union,? said Thomas Donohoe, the president of the US Chamber of Commerce, in the text of the newspaper advertisement.
More broadly, US business is concerned that its rivals in Europe and elsewhere, China in particular, will gain at its expense if Washington goes it alone.
Business leaders say that Washington, and Capitol Hill, have become overly reliant on sanctions as a foreign policy tool, with private companies often suffering in the fallout.Pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine have escalated the political turmoil that threatens to tear the country apart
?Sanctions have become the tool for just about everything,? said an industry association executive in Washington, who asked not to be named.
?One business leader described these latest possible measures as the ?China Emergency Relief Act?.?
In comments on Wednesday, the White House seemed to suggest that it would not proceed unless European countries did as well, something that seems unlikely for the moment given the huge trade that countries such as Germany do with Russia.
?The sanctions regime will be more effective in isolating Russia if many of Russia?s trading partners are co-operating in that effort,? said Josh Earnest, White House spokesman.
Mr Earnest added that President Barack Obama was ?mindful of not putting American companies at a significant competitive disadvantage?.
In the planned advertisement, Jay Timmons, the president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said: ?The most effective long-term solution to increase America?s global influence is to strengthen our ability to provide goods and services to the world through pro-trade policies and multilateral diplomacy.?