RONALD REAGAN proposed it. George Bush came within a whisker
of finishing it. Bill Clinton may claim it as the crowning foreign
policy achievement of his presidency.
Nearly eight years after they began, worldwide negotiations
aimed at lowering trade barriers appear headed toward an agreement
that supporters say will dramatically stimulate economic growth
Trade negotiators gathered Friday in Geneva to work toward
final compromises. The chief problem remained a dispute between the
United States and the European Community over protection for
European farm products, primarily those from France.
Clinton spoke with French President Francois Mitterrand and
Premier Edouard Balladur on Friday, White House press secretary Dee
Dee Myers said. She said they discussed "outstanding issues"
"Both affirmed a commitment to getting something done," she
About 100 French farmers blocked trains Friday near Vichy in
central France, responding to calls by farm groups to protest any
agreement to cut subsidies or production.
Should Americans care about GATT?
Exports are "the lifeblood of our economic growth," according
"This is the only international jobs bill around," says
Republican Bill Frenzel, a former Minnesota congressman and a trade
Clinton, Frenzel and other supporters of the General Agreement
on Tariffs and Trade believe that well over half the new jobs
generated in the United States over the next decade will come from
goods and services that Americans will sell to foreign consumers. A
report presented at Friday's trade meeting predicted that GATT
would increase world trade by at least $745 billion a year and
world income by $230 billion a year, by 2005.
Conversely, if the GATT negotiations fail, there is a real
possibility of regional trade wars, isolating the European
Community, Asia and North America and slowing growth.
There will be some losers among U.S. companies if the final
round of negotiations end with an agreement among the 116
participating nations, as expected over the next few days. But
overall, there is a broad consensus that the impact of GATT will be
many times that of the North American Free Trade Agreement,
approved by Congress last month after a brutal political battle.
"This is far, far more important than NAFTA," said Barry
Bosworth, an economist at the Brookings Institution and a White
House adviser in the Carter administration. "The fight over NAFTA
was about low-wage jobs we were going to lose anyway. GATT gives a
huge advantage to high technology and research, which this country
Among the U.S. winners are likely to be high-tech computer
makers, grain farmers, investment firms, television producers,
pharmaceutical companies, tractor and heavy truck manufacturers and
hundreds of service industries eager to do business abroad.
Frenzel, who helped Clinton push NAFTA through Congress, said
there might now be a worldwide agreement because, "Leaders
everywhere don't like what their economies are doing.
"Europe is flat, its industrial powers are down, the U.S.
growth is slow and Japan is in a recession like it hasn't
experienced for 20 years," he said. "That is not a pleasant world
picture. Leaders are beginning to understand that without
liberalized trade, we are going to have an even more unpleasant
Although GATT may help the United States in the long run, there
will undoubtedly be some industries that have traditionally been
protected from foreign competition - either by high tariffs or
quotas - that will be hurt. …