Sponsorship of WDC Conflict Bill Close

March 21, 2001

Sponsorship of WDC Conflict Bill Close

The World Diamond Council is drawing closer to finding a sponsor for its bill in Congress, WDC Executive Director Matt Runci tells Professional Jeweler. While Runci declined to pinpoint a date, he says it is forthcoming.

Sponsorship of the industry-led bill by a senator, for example, would set the stage for hearings and eventually a vote by the full Senate. Then the bill could go to a conference committee where it would be compared to the House of Representatives bill, called The Clean Diamonds Act, introduced by U.S. Rep.Tony P. Hall (D-OH). Conference committees are used to reconcile similar bills passed by each house that still have differences to be hammered out.

"The jewelry industry has been, and remains today, amenable to crediting Mr. Hall for having championed the conflict diamond issue in Congress," Runci says. "But we are disappointed that despite WDC's efforts at communication and accommodation with Mr. Hall, he sees only his own version of a solution, one which was reached without any dialogue with the jewelry industry.

"For our part, we have invited Mr. Hall and non-governmental officials to all of our meetings, including the one in London in January," Runci says. "We have also maintained that our agreement [on proposed legislation] in London was a starting point and that we would look forward to any changes that would make the bill a better or more efficient one. Tony Hall [who declined to attend the London meeting] has instead chosen to conduct all of his communication from the street."

While the goal of both bills is identical – to ban conflict diamonds from being imported into the U.S. and develop a worldwide certification program to rid the rough pipeline of conflict stones – some points of contention remain. "There have been some major developments and changes with the WDC legislation," Runci says. "They include a provision to place an embargo on any country that tries to circumnavigate the conflict diamond act by exporting conflict diamonds in jewelry." This provision was added after Hall's bill sought to label all diamond jewelry with a tag that informs consumers the diamonds in the jewelry are not tainted. "Our view is that once a system of checks is in place to keep conflict diamonds out of the rough pipeline, there would be no reason to raise the specter of conflict stones with consumers at all," Runci says. "It would also impose an unnecessary burden and reflect a negative image on retailers, traders, manufacturers and legitimate diamond producing nations."

- by Robert Weldon, G.G., and Peggy Jo Donahue