Byline: Joyce Barrett
WASHINGTON — As members of the House and Senate return home this weekend to campaign for Nov. 8 elections, they will be confronted with extensive campaigns mounted by those both for and against the GATT Uruguay Round.
The delays on the GATT vote are giving both opponents and proponents the opportunity to roll out their heavy artillery. Both chambers will return after Thanksgiving for a lame-duck session to consider the agreement to liberalize world trade. A hoped-for House adjournment was delayed by a Wednesday decision to vote Nov. 29. The Senate is to vote Dec. 1.
GATT opponents, organized by the Citizens Trade Campaign and assisted by Ross Perot’s United We Stand organization, are planning candidate forums, local advertising and grass-roots campaigns to pressure members to oppose the pact.
Some 200,000 businesses, making up the Alliance for GATT Now, also are mapping a strong offensive, fueled by the fear that they may be the only voices in favor of the plan that unites 123 nations under identical trading rules.
Sitting out the battle will be retailers, who retreated to the sidelines of the GATT battle after the Clinton administration agreed to include in the implementing legislation a rule-of-origin change for apparel imports, pushed by the domestic textile industry. Without retailers mobilizing their extensive grass roots network, the pro-GATT movement could be hurt.
“They will be harmed by this,” said Robert Hall, vice president, government affairs counsel for the National Retail Federation. “The administration will need all the help it can get.”
Congressional Republican and Democratic leaders, though, have promised that GATT will be passed when the votes are finally taken. In a letter sent late Wednesday to President Clinton, House leaders of both parties sought the delay to avoid jeopardizing the entire agreement. A vote on the bill had been set for Wednesday in the House, but strategy shifted as resistance to a pre-election vote became increasingly evident.
“The Senate decision to postpone the vote has quite frankly undermined our ability to guarantee strong bipartisan support for this effort in the House at this time,” the letter said. “With the ultimate goal of GATT enactment in mind, we would prefer that consideration of GATT in the House be delayed until later this year.”
The ILGWU has put defeat of the GATT bill at the top of its legislative agenda and is planning a campaign larger than the one unsuccessfully mounted last year against the North American Free Trade Agreement, said Evelyn Dubrow, union vice president and legislative director.
United We Stand also has put GATT defeat at the top of its political agenda. Betty Montgomery, statewide director of United We Stand in South Carolina, said the group is asking all Congressional candidates in the textile-rich state to sign pledges promising to oppose GATT.
A spokeswoman for the Alliance for GATT Now, a coalition of some 200,000 businesses, said leaders planned to meet today and early next week to plan their strategy to maintain support for the agreement.
The business community must make its case for GATT aggressively, a House staffer said. “It’s up to them, because everyone else will be arguing against it,” she said.
— Fairchild News Service