House Passes Conflict Diamond Bill

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(Rapaport…November 28, 2001) The U.S. House of Representatives passed a compromise version of the Clean Diamonds Act (HR 2722) late this morning. The vote was 408 to six. The bill was passed under “suspension-of-rules” which requires a two-thirds majority vote with no attached amendments. Suspension-of-rules bills are often reserved for non-controversial legislation.

The compromise version of HR 2722 gives the president authority to impose sanctions against a country that does not have a system of controls on rough diamonds if he deems it a matter of national security. The new bill also gives the president the authority to block shipments of jewelry and polished gems if there is credible evidence that they were made with conflict diamonds.

In the original version of the bill, the president was provided an automatic trigger for sanctions and diamond jewelry was subject to the same international controls as loose diamonds.

The passage of the bill coincides with the latest meeting of the Kimberley Process, the international effort to curb the flow of conflicts diamonds. Delegates from all over the globe are meeting this week in Garborone, Botswana to discuss the process.

“This legislation gives impetus to the Kimberley Process,” said Matthew Runci, president and CEO of Jewelers of America and executive director of the World Diamond Council. “The diamond and jewelry industries have been backing and participating in this effort from the beginning. We are very pleased that it is close to finishing its work at the same time that this bill appears so close to enactment.”

The Bush administration, in talks with members of congress, supports the new bill, and the president is likely to sign it. Previous versions of the bill were not endorsed by the administration and were susceptible to a presidential veto.

The bill now must pass through the senate, then to a congressional committee for approval, and back to congress for final passage. The president then signs the bill into effect.

Industry organizations that lobbied for the bill include Jewelers of America (JA), Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), the American Gem Society (AGS), and the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America (MJSA). Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also worked closely with the industry to come up with legislation that would be agreeable to all concerned.

JA, in particular, organized members from around the country to lobby congress. At least 100 letters were sent out. JA also targeted specific retailers in key districts to contact their congressional leaders.

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