WASHINGTON — Rep. Sam Gibbons (D., Fla.), acting chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is seizing upon U.S. efforts to bring democracy to Haiti to make a last-minute pitch for broadening trade benefits for Caribbean countries.
In an hour-long meeting Monday with Senate Finance Committee chairman Daniel P. Moynihan (D., N.Y.) to discuss unresolved issues in the implementing legislation for the GATT Uruguay Round, Gibbons urged Moynihan to accept his proposal that Caribbean Basin Initiative countries be given benefits similar to those granted Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Moynihan told Gibbons he would “take some soundings” for the plan among his Senate colleagues, a House aide in the meeting said. Moynihan has consistently objected to any suggestion that CBI countries be given NAFTA-like benefits for textiles and apparel in defense of organized labor and New York apparel workers. Asked as he emerged from the meeting whether his stance had changed in the wake of this weekend’s events in Haiti, Moynihan said, “That is too big a question for me to answer.”
The issue of CBI parity, along with an apparel rule of origin change and funding for the GATT agreement, are expected to be resolved today when Moynihan and Gibbons meet to draft the final congressional recommendation on implementing legislation. Once the recommendation is completed, it will be sent to the White House, be put into legislative language and submitted to Congress for a vote. It’s expected this will happen next week.
Gibbons said Monday after the meeting that he felt recent events in Haiti gave his argument for CBI parity an edge over Moynihan’s objections.
“I’ve pointed out the necessity of strengthening the Caribbean,” Gibbons said. “I’ve told them this is important.”
On another front, the battle over whether an apparel rule of origin change would be included in GATT continued in high gear. The textile industry, led by the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, was organizing meetings and telephone calls between industry executives and members of Congress. The industry strongly backs the plan, which, for purposes of import quota, would designate as country of origin the place where apparel is sewn, and not where it is cut.