WASHINGTON — C. William Verity, President Reagan's choice to be commerce secretary, today stuck by his call for expanded trade with the Soviet Union and questioned the effectiveness of U.S. laws that tie trade to human-rights progress.
"We have to find a way to increase (Jewish) emigration out of the Soviet Union that isn't tied to trade," the retired steel executive told the Senate Commerce Committee. "There are better ways to do it."
However, Verity said that if confirmed he would not recommend to President Reagan that he seek repeal of the so-called 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which denies the Soviets most-favored-nation trade benefits on human-rights grounds.
Even though he has criticized that measure in the past, Verity said he knew it was important to the Jewish community and "should be kept on the books."
Verity, 70, the former chairman of Armco Inc., one of the nation's largest steel companies, was nominated last month to succeed the late Malcolm Baldrige to head the 33,000-employee agency.
Verity has come under criticism from some conservatives for his outspoken advocacy of more trade with the Soviet Union and his criticism of some export control restrictions. He is a past co-chairman of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Trade and Economic Council, an organization of543323507increased trade between the two nations.
On Opposite Side
As commerce secretary, Verity would have to enforce many of the export control laws on East-West trade that, as a private businessman, he opposed.
Responding to questions from the Senate panel, Verity said he still believes that restrictions on what can be shipped to the Soviet Union are costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost sales.
"I believe trading with the Soviet Union is a good thing," Verity said.