PANETTA: GATT PASSAGE IN SENATE 3 TO 5 VOTES SHY
Byline: Joyce Barrett
WASHINGTON — As negotiations continued Thursday to resolve the GATT concerns of Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R., Kan.), White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said the administration was three to five votes short of the 60 needed to pass the trade pact in the Senate.
The 60 votes would be required to overcome the point of order expected to be raised on funding for GATT. That issue would have to be dealt with before the Senate could vote on ratification, which requires a simple majority.
A Republican Senate staffer said Panetta’s count — given at a briefing with regional reporters — was overly optimistic, but the staffer declined to give his own estimate.
U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, who also attended the briefing, said he had no word yet on how negotiations with the Dole forces were going. Dole was not in Washington Thursday.
If a deal can be struck with Dole, the Senate would proceed with its planned Dec. 1 vote on GATT and the three-part bill Dole seeks in return would be voted on next year in the 104th Congress, where he will be Senate Majority Leader.
This legislation would create an independent commission to review decisions by the World Trade Organization, the body that would be created by GATT to oversee trade and that Dole now fears would impinge on U.S. sovereignty. The legislation would also affect a provision Dole believes unfairly benefits telecommunications companies, and would eliminate the guaranteed floor on savings bonds interest rates.
With the fate of GATT apparently resting with Dole, its advocates and opponents were waging their own campaigns.
Roger Milliken, chairman of Milliken Co., Spartanburg, S.C., mobilized conservative Senate Republicans to telephone Dole to urge delaying the GATT vote until next year, a trade source said.
The White House has said such a delay would be tantamount to killing the bill, yet Sen. Strom Thurmond (R., S.C.) wrote Clinton Wednesday to dispute that assessment.
“What is the rush to pass GATT this year? Adequate time exists to improve this important legislation since the Uruguay Round agreement itself does not contemplate implementation until July 1, 1995. Further, the existing GATT structure does not expire and in fact remains in effect until it is replaced by a succeeding arrangement.
“If you are concerned that this is a stalling tactic, I am willing to vote to extend fast-track authority for one year for the sole purpose of introducing an improved Uruguay Round implementing measure,” Thurmond wrote.
In the press briefing where
Panetta and Kantor touted the benefits of GATT to an audience of reporters primarily interested in agriculture, Kantor said at one point that the American Textile Manufacturers Institute had “come on board now” and was backing GATT.
ATMI executive vice president Carlos Moore, however, said the group maintains the neutral position it has always taken on GATT.
“We believe the bill is in as good a shape as it will get, and a vote this year will ensure that it’s not opened up and changed,” Moore said in a telephone interview. “A delay could cause serious problems for the textile provisions in the legislations. We’re in a position of not supporting the agreement because it will lead to an increase in imports, but there are a number of items in it that would offset the damage.”
Asked about the discrepancy, a Kantor spokeswoman said ATMI president William J. Armfield 4th, vice chairman of Unifi Inc., Greensboro, N.C., spoke by telephone with Kantor Thursday morning and said the bill was the “best possible outcome and that ATMI is urging a vote this year,” statements Kantor construed as an endorsement.
Also, in a Capitol Hill rally, the Citizens Trade Campaign, an anti-GATT coalition of labor, environmental, consumer and religious organizations, marked the one-year anniversary of House passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the group also opposed, and urged a no-vote on GATT. A flyer from the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union said GATT would eliminate millions of textile and apparel jobs, drive more jobs overseas, exploit child labor, harm worker rights and ban “Buy America” programs.
William Bywater, AFL-CIO vice president, said that since implementation of NAFTA, U.S. companies were increasingly seeking wage cuts from workers.
“Companies tell us if we don’t take wage cuts they will move to Mexico,” Bywater said. “That has really affected the wage structure of the United States and it will get worse.”
Marcy Kaptur (D., Ohio), who voted against NAFTA and plans to oppose GATT, said that so far, 12,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost to Mexico under NAFTA. “Now the administration is promising everything under the sun to pass GATT,” she said. “If the American people can learn anything after one year of NAFTA, they can learn to suspect hollow promises.”
— Fairchild News Service