U.S. Talks Tough on Conflict Diamonds

The United States will meet the January deadline to implement the Kimberley Process, said the State Department’s new point man for conflict diamonds, J.D. Bindenagel. He also warned that other governments had better act quickly or they will not have access to the world’s largest diamond market.

“The U.S. is dead serious about implementing Kimberley,” Bindenagel told a World Diamond Council meeting at the Diamond Dealers Club recently. “We have had two years of negotiations and six or seven months since the final document was agreed to in Ottawa, and we expect to implement everything that’s been agreed upon by the deadline and are not prepared to delay. We are telling everyone at our embassies to inform people that there is a Kimberley Process that is being implemented in January and they can’t ignore it.”

Bindenagel stressed that America’s goal is to “not disrupt the industry, but to halt the flow of diamonds to these rebel movements.”

The World Diamond Council representatives were ecstatic at the resolve shown by the no-nonsense Bindenagel. They had previously doubted the American government’s commitment to this issue.

“There’s been a sea change,” exulted WDC chairman Eli Izhakoff. “We welcome this. Let the word go out: The United States is very serious about the Kimberley Process.”

Bindenagel says the administration will implement the Kimberley Process through an emergency order, precluding the need for congressional legislation.

Some thought the harder American line stemmed from reports linking diamonds with terrorist groups.

WDC officials hope that Bindenagel will help them navigate the last-minute political snafus that have sprung up as the January deadline looms. Among them:

  • Taiwan has not participated in the process because of objections from China.

  • Smaller diamond producers such as Venezuela and Brazil have shown a lack of interest in the process and may not be ready to implement Kimberley in January.

  • The WDC is upset with a European Union directive that will allow pre-Kimberley goods to be imported and exported for only 90 days after the process goes live.

No one doubts that the issue of goods mined and sold before Kimberley is an important one that’s never been addressed. The Kimberley Process requires that a certificate of origin accompany every rough diamond import or export. But many stones don’t have certificates, because they were mined before Kimberley.

WDC leaders feel the EU’s directive will disrupt the market. People in Antwerp worry it could have a dramatic effect on the city’s trade, since it is the only diamond center under the EU’s jurisdiction.