Twa Pension Fund Becomes Focus of Debate over GATT

Article excerpt

A provision benefiting Trans World Airlines' pension fund is another example of a giveaway quietly tucked into the massive GATT agreement, opponents of the pending trade pact say.

But defenders of the provision contend that it provides key protection both for the government agency that guarantees pensions and for the 5,400 TWA retirees and 37,000 employees who depend on the fund.

Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., plans a hearing next month to investigate the provision and other examples of what he calls "freebies" in legislation implementing the 123-nation accord negotiated under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Congress will vote on whether to ratify the trade agreement in a post-election special session.

Just before members of Congress recessed, GATT opponents raised an uproar over another little-known provision, also labeled a giveaway.

It would grant discounts on federal licenses sold to three companies developing the next generation of wireless telephone systems. Its defenders said it protected the government from lawsuits that could have forced it to issue the licenses for free.

The controversy was a crucial factor in the House's decision to postpone its GATT vote until Nov. 29. GATT opponents played on lawmakers' fears that other obscure provisions could leave them vulnerable to charges of granting special favors to corporate lobbyists.

"Fast-track" rules in place for considering the trade agreement permit no amendments. Either every provision of the implementing legislation becomes law or the whole bill goes down in defeat.

In an effort to persuade lawmakers to postpone the vote again, GATT critics are compiling lists of what they consider special-interest provisions.

"As each one of these things comes out . …