Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Exports Called Vital for U.S. GATT Backers Say NAFTA Proves Point
The prosperity - and even survival - of many U.S. businesses now depends more and more on exports, a top U.S. trade official argues.
The North American Free Trade Agreement "was very hotly contested . . . with many saying it would destroy jobs," said Robert A. Taft, the deputy assistant for international operations for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.
"But what has happened in the first eight months of this year?" Taft said. "In a nutshell, U.S. exports increased by 20 percent over the same period the year before. . . . We have found that half of our world trade increase has come from our NAFTA partners" Mexico and Canada.
On Thursday, Taft was the keynote speaker for the daylong "Emerging Issues in Global Markets" conference in Clayton. The meeting was sponsored by the Institute of International Business of St. Louis University and the international accounting firm of Ernst & Young.
Taft is a distant relative of the famous Ohio Republican political family.
Taft and other speakers said the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is before the Senate, should be quickly ratified. GATT would greatly lower tariffs and other trade barriers among more than 100 nations, he said.
"I believe it will pass with wide bipartisan support," Taft said in an interview after his speech. He also stressed that U.S. trade policy is driven by wide bipartisan support and that the GATT talks began under President Ronald Reagan, continued under President George Bush, and that President Bill Clinton supports the treaty.
"Within 10 years after it is implemented, GATT will provide an additional $100 billion to $200 billion in U. …