By  on March 24, 1994

WASHINGTON -- Donald G. Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of The Gap, urged the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday to take swift action in approving implementing legislation for the GATT Uruguay Round treaty because it would benefit retailers and consumers.

In addition to providing low-cost consumer merchandise, the treaty would open markets in developing countries for U.S. retailers and investors, Fisher said. Noting that The Gap already has stores in the U.K., France and Canada, Fisher said he was considering further expansion in Europe and the Far East.

"In opening stores abroad, U.S. retailers can play an important role in increasing the sale abroad of American-made goods," Fisher said.

As for the domestic market, he said, "We know that an open international trading environment remains critical to meeting customers' needs. The availability of lower-cost goods from overseas suppliers helps stretch the budget of the country's low- and middle-income families."

Specifically, GATT benefits retailers by ending special protection for the domestic textile and apparel industry, which has added $46 billion yearly in extra costs to consumers, Fisher said.

Fisher also struck out at an administration proposal to auction textile quotas to help make up for tariff revenues that would be lost under GATT's free trade regime.

Such auctions, he said, would be "bad for the nation's retailers and would be bad for America."

The auction would not raise enough money to pay for GATT, could violate U.S. GATT obligations under the Multi-Fiber Arrangement, would create a "double quota on imports," and would create an "inefficient and cumbersome system" that would gradually be phased out in 10 years anyway, Fisher said.

If textile quota auctions were conducted to raise money, retailers would "resist implementing legislation that established such a system," he said.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Capitol Hill, U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor told a House panel that the administration still intended to pursue GATT passage this year despite some objections in Congress, and was negotiating with Senate members to waive the budget requirement that the full cost of GATT be funded before implementing legislation is approved.

Preliminary estimates put the 10-year cost of GATT incurred by lower tariffs at $40 billion.

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