WASHINGTON--Trade policies didn't take a back seat at last week's Republican presidential convention in San Diego; they barely stepped on the bus. Yet GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole has not forsaken the issue that is so important to retailers, importers and domestic manufacturers. He is drafting what is being dubbed as a major trade policy address he tentatively plans to give in September, according to a source close to his campaign and its trade advisers. Dole, who built a free-trade record during more than three decades on Capitol Hill, plans to lambaste the Clinton administration on its trade policies, the source said. A hint of what is on Dole's mind was disclosed in three sentences in his hour-long acceptance speech in San Diego last week. "We must...commit ourselves to trade policy that does not suppress pay and threaten American jobs. And by any measure, the trade policy of the Clinton administration has been a disaster, trade deficits are skyrocketing, and middle-income families are paying the price. My administration will fully enforce our trade laws and not let our national sovereignty be infringed by the World Trade Organization or by any other international body." A tug of war is under way on the specifics of the address. Domestic manufacturers are urging that Dole lash out at the Clinton administration's failure to stop illicit textile and apparel transshipping from China. He is also being encouraged to hit rising trade deficits with Japan and China and to talk tough on enforcement of U.S. trade policies. Retailers, on the other hand, are reminding the Republican handlers that they are staunch supporters of free-trade policies and are discouraging Dole from straying too far toward protectionism and away from their interests. Many in the industry are relying on Kemp's staunch expansionist policies to influence Dole. Dole plans to deliver his trade speech in a Midwest city, such as Detroit or Cleveland, where industries have been reduced by the North American Free Trade Agreement and other free-trade initiatives. Dole's foray into union territory in search of votes could be perilous, since Clinton has spent the past four years shoring up his support among organized labor, despite his advancement of NAFTA.
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