Falling agricultural exports and declining commodity prices led farm groups and agribusiness firms to urge the 106th Congress to pass legislation exempting foods and agricultural commodities from U.S. economic sanctions against certain countries. In completing action on the FY2001 agriculture appropriations bill, Congress codified the lifting of unilateral sanctions on commercial sales of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical products to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan, and extended this policy to apply to Cuba (Title IX of H.R. 5426, as enacted by P.L. 106-387; Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000). Related provisions place financing and licensing conditions on sales to these countries. Those that apply to Cuba, though, are permanent and more restrictive than for the other countries. Other provisions give Congress the authority in the future to veto a President's proposal to impose a sanction on the sale of agricultural or medical products.
China has sought over the past several years to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the international agency that administers multilateral trade rules. China’s WTO membership (as well as that of Taiwan’s) was formally approved at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar in November 2001. On December 11, 2001, China officially became a WTO member. WTO membership will require China to significantly liberalize its trade and investment regimes, which could produce significant new commercial opportunities for U.S. businesses. A main concern for Congress is to ensure that China fully complies with its WTO commitments.