The Legislative Basis of United States commercial policy
The legislative basis of United States commercial policy has been the Trade Agreements Act of June 12, 1934. This Act authorized the President to lower duties in trade agreements with foreign countries. It thereby gave a new direction to United States commercial policy, which had considered the tariff as virtually "untouchable" and not subject to negotiation with foreign countries. This direction has been maintained, but with some uncertainty and considerable wavering. This chapter is concerned with (1) considerations underlying the original Act; (2) administrative decisions following its enactment; (3) significant changes in the law; and (4) the 1962 trade legislation.
The Administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which succeeded that of Herbert Hoover on March 4, 1933, was pledged to the reduction of the United States tariff. In the 1932 Presidential campaign, the Democratic platform had condemned the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act and had advocated a policy of freer international trade. However, as is frequently the case with party platforms, it had dealt in generalities, and there was no clear outline as to how the policy was to be implemented. Several alternatives presented themselves as to how much and by what means the tariff should be reduced.1
There were two means of lowering the United States tariff--by negotiations with other countries for reciprocal reductions or by unilateral action. Generally, sentiment favored reciprocal tariff reductions, though there were important objections to this policy. There was the possibility____________________