SENATE PANEL RAPS GATT FUNDING PLANS
Byline: Joyce Barrett
WASHINGTON — The Senate Finance Committee lashed out Thursday at the White House’s funding proposals for the GATT Uruguay Round and sent administration officials back for yet another attempt to find $12.5 billion in income or spending cuts to pay for the worldwide free trade agreement.
Meanwhile, work on amendments for the legislation that would implement GATT, including a controversial plan to change the apparel rule of origin, has been delayed. The committee is set to meet again today for its third go this week at devising its version of implementing legislation for the agreement.
Democrats and Republicans alike offered the harshest assessments to date on the administration’s plan to make up the tariff income that would be lost during the first five years under the agreement. Committee chairman Daniel P. Moynihan (D., N.Y.), who met with Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen late Wednesday, said the administration is not “taking funding seriously.”
Sen. Bob Packwood (R., Ore.), ranking minority member of the panel, charged the administration was a “dumb gambler” in risking the entire agreement on weak funding proposals and by adding “unnecessary” amendments.
Bentsen’s plan is still $4 billion short, Moynihan said, in admonishing Treasury officials appearing before the panel Thursday to come back today with “more serious financing.”
A proposed change in tax laws governing retail inventories remains in the administration’s package, but a new plan to require that newborns be given Social Security numbers and another to require the Internal Revenue Service to pay lower interest rates on overpayments of income tax drew the ire as well as ridicule of committee members.
Packwood, who has criticized the administration’s effort to include trade parity for Caribbean Basin countries and an extension of the Generalized System of Preferences in the GATT as unnecessary, warned that the combination of a weak funding proposal and the extraneous provisions could kill the agreement in the Senate.
“If the administration can’t find $2 billion or $3 billion in real money, something is wrong with it,” Packwood said. “We’re walking down a suicide road.”
As for the rule-of-origin amendment to be proposed by Sen. John Breaux (D., La.), the administration continued its attempt to mollify retailers and importers, who are fighting the plan, which would make the place of assembly — rather than fabric-cutting — the country of origin for apparel imports.