Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

For Panel Discussion Is Growing Trade Deficit Worth Worrying About?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

For Panel Discussion Is Growing Trade Deficit Worth Worrying About?

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- For three decades, America has been buying more from foreigners than it sells to them. Now come 12 Americans, picked by Congress, to answer the question: Do we have a problem here?

Washington's latest blue-ribbon commission, which holds its first public hearing today, has been given the job of figuring out what causes trade deficits, what is their impact on the U.S. economy and what should be done about them.

The group's chairman, Murray Weidenbaum, who was head of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, says he believes the panel will reach a consensus in a single report rather than one split between the six Republican-appointed members and the six chosen by Democrats.

"We go in with a united determination that we are not going to issue two separate reports. That would be the easiest way out, but not very helpful," said Weidenbaum, an economist at Washington University in St. Louis who was named to the panel by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

But the very existence of the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission, created by a provision in last year's budget bill, underscores the deep divide in American trade policy. Politicians often turn to study panels to handle political hot potatoes.

President Clinton, who won office as a centrist new Democrat, has seen his trade agenda stymied for more than two years by members of his own party who have twice turned back his efforts in the House to win authority to negotiate new global trade deals.

Even Republicans, normally backers of free trade because of its support in the business community, have seen a growing split on the issue.

While the United States last enjoyed a trade surplus in goods and services in 1975, the deficits recently have been skyrocketing as the Asian economic crisis has dried up export markets for American manufacturers and farmers. …

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