PACKWOOD SEES GATT IMPERILED BY LINKING TRADE TO LABOR, ECOLOGY
Byline: JOYCE BARRETT
WASHINGTON — The ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee said Friday that concerns over funding for the GATT Uruguay Round can be resolved, but growing complaints about a White House proposal to tie environmental and labor standards to future trade agreements have emerged as an obstacle to GATT passage.
Exiting a White House meeting Friday with President Clinton, Sen. Bob Packwood (R., Ore.) said he told the President that if the administration persists in pushing this link — part of a proposal to extend fast-track negotiating authority to facilitate future trade pacts — “it would kill GATT.”
Packwood also told reporters that he advised the President that some other White House-proposed additions to the GATT implementing legislation must be removed to win Republican support for the agreement in the Senate. Among them are a plan to give Caribbean Basin apparel makers the same free trade accorded Mexico, and an extension of the Generalized System of Preferences, which provides tariff breaks for some imports — not textiles and apparel, though — from developing countries.
“I’m all for CBI parity,” Packwood told reporters, “but we just don’t want to open up the GATT agreement to all these special interests.”
CBI parity was included in the version of GATT-implementing legislation put together last week by the House Ways and Means Committee, but it lost out in the Senate Finance Committee, which continues to work on its version.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Daniel P. Moynihan (D., N.Y.) also was at the Friday White House meeting and said that Clinton had agreed to whittle down his fast-track proposal to accommodate any Republican concerns. Moynihan said that details on how this would be done were not discussed, however.
House Republicans also are opposing any link between trade negotiations and labor and environmental standards, Rep. Bill Archer (R., Tex.), ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview Friday. Unlike Senate Republicans, who would be willing to accept some tax increases to raise the estimated $12.5 billion needed to make up for the tariff revenue lost during the first five years of GATT, House Republicans won’t agree to new taxes, Archer said.
He noted that the administration’s plan to change the inventory tax on retailers to raise $1.2 billion was unacceptable because it could hurt some small businesses.
The Senate Finance Committee could begin considering amendments to the GATT implementing legislation this week (July 25).
Both House and Senate Republicans are insisting that GATT funding and the fast-track proposal be considered by each panel — Senate Finance and House Ways and Means — before the two different versions are reconciled and forwarded to the White House. Once the administration formally submits the implementing legislation to Congress, it can’t be amended under fast-track rules, but can only be approved or denied.