WHITE HOUSE COURTS DOLE TO MOVE GATT
Byline: Joyce Barrett
WASHINGTON — Even as some prominent Republicans Tuesday began pressuring for a delay in the GATT vote, the White House and the business community were mounting a campaign to win Sen. Robert Dole (R., Kan.) over to the trade pact.
Implementing legislation for the worldwide trade agreement will be taken up when the 103rd Congress returns here for a lame-duck session after Thanksgiving, and Dole, Senate minority leader and soon to be the majority leader when the 104th Congress convenes in January, is viewed as the linchpin to deliver the Republican votes needed to give the administration this legislative victory. So far, Dole has not taken a stance on GATT.
While this Dole strategy was moving into gear, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta paid a courtesy call Tuesday to Congressional leaders-to-be Rep. Newt Gingrich (R., Ga.) and Dole and emerged to tell reporters they had discussed the importance of passing GATT in a few weeks.
“All of us recognize the major importance of getting GATT enacted, and more importantly, this will be a test of our ability to work together,” Panetta said.
However, Sen. Jesse Helms (R., N.C.), expected to become Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, sent a letter to President Clinton late Tuesday asking for a delay in the GATT vote until next year and added, “If you will agree to this, Mr. President, I can assure you that it will have an exceedingly positive effect on my making certain that the administration’s positions on all foreign policy matters during the 104th Congress will be considered fairly and fully.”
In a separate letter to Dole, Helms, along with Sens. Strom Thurmond (R., S.C.) and Larry Craig (R., Idaho), sought the delay and said they would be willing to consider an extension of fast-track negotiating authority exclusively for GATT next year to consider the agreement without threat of amendments in Congress.
But there’s general agreement that when and if the GATT vote hits the Senate in the lame-duck session, it faces a difficult time, without Dole’s support, especially on questions over how the lost tariff revenue is made up. While GATT advocates predict they have enough votes to pass the agreement, they don’t have the votes needed to overcome funding questions, and so GATT could be killed on a technicality.
Under discussion is legislation for next year that would give the U.S. the option of withdrawing from the World Trade Organization, created by the GATT agreement, five years after the treaty takes effect if sovereignty is threatened. Dole said last week he was concerned about the sovereignty issue and advised Clinton to publicly explain it.
The possible legislation, along with the strategies of the pro-GATT campaign, were discussed in a meeting Monday of administration and business representatives. The business group Alliance for GATT Now organized the meeting, closed to the press.
“Dole is the linchpin,” said a Washington lobbyist who attended the meeting and asked to remain anonymous. Lists of Senate members targeted for lobbying were circulated, and the large number of names on them indicates the effort that will be needed to win passage. Forty names are included on the list for GATT lobbying, and 61 are listed for lobbying on the budget question. The business representatives at the meeting were not panicked about GATT’s chances, but were “concerned,” the lobbyist said.
Meanwhile, Vice President Al Gore is traveling to Capitol Hill today for a pro-GATT press conference, along with U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor and other administration staffers. Chief executive officers of 11 corporations and business groups also are to attend. They include such names as Paul Allaire of Xerox Corp. and Jerry R. Junkins of Texas Instruments, but no retail or textile industry officials. As reported, retail organizations withdrew active support for GATT and opted to sit on the sidelines, when a change in the rule of origin for apparel imports they said was disruptive was included in the implementing legislation.
Another meeting is being planned for Friday at the Treasury Department for senior business executives to discuss the funding formula devised for GATT.
On Tuesday, Felix G. Rohatyn, senior partner of Lazard Freres & Co., testifying for GATT before the Senate Commerce Committee, urged the Senate not to delay its vote.
“The whole world is waiting for it, and I see no indications that if we can’t do it now we can do it six months from now,” he said, adding a vote against GATT would “have a negative impact” on financial markets.
— Fairchild News Service