Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — Rep. Sam Gibbons (D., Fla.), 76, one of the boldest advocates of free trade on Capitol Hill, announced Monday that he plans to end his 34-year congressional career and retire at the end of this year.
Citing his role in developing free trade policies as among his greatest accomplishments, Gibbons said in a press conference that he planned to continue his advocacy of freer markets across the globe.
Saying that President Clinton telephoned him last night to urge him to stay in Congress, Gibbons said he spoke with the President about the importance of opening more markets around the world. Gibbons also said he planned to call U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor to volunteer for any free-trade mission Kantor may have for him.
Gibbons was chairman of the House Trade Subcommittee from 1981 until 1995, when he took over as chairman of the full Ways and Means Committee. Under his leadership, the implementing legislation for the North American Free Trade Agreement and the GATT Uruguay Round were drafted. He was the original sponsor of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which extended trade privileges to the 24 Caribbean nations to help them develop economically, and he has been a leading figure in the continuing push to give the CBI free-trade parity with Mexico.
Robert Hall, vice president, government affairs, National Retail Federation, said the industry would miss Gibbons. “He has been an aggressive advocate for free trade for the many years he worked in Congress,” Hall said.
Carlos Moore, executive vice president at the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, who often has been at odds with Gibbons, also praised his congressional service. “While we didn’t agree on every issue, we have shared a belief that the U.S. must build strong ties within this hemisphere,” Moore said. “In this area, we’ve worked together on issues such as NAFTA, and NAFTA parity for the Caribbean.” — Fairchild News Service

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