Lobbying for and against GATT is in high gear as the 103rd
Congress returns Tuesday for a lame-duck session whose only
official order of business is the world trade agreement.
President Bill Clinton is devoting two hours a day to calling
members of Congress to urge their support for legislation to
implement the 123-nation Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade.
The Alliance for GATT Now, a coalition of more than 200
companies, is delivering a booklet titled "Countdown to GATT" to
every member of Congress outlining reasons to support the agreement.
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, a leading opponent of GATT, has
sent letters to the nearly 90 members of Congress who are retiring
at the end of the year or who were defeated for re-election
demanding that they abstain from voting on GATT if their future
employment plans present any "conflict of interest."
The protectionist Americans for America held a rally against
the pact Saturday on the Capitol steps. Texas billionaire Ross
Perot led a United We Stand rally in Wichita, Kan., last week
denouncing the agreement. Both sides are running newspaper and
television ads and generating thousands of phone calls to Capitol
Vice President Al Gore has called the trade pact "a critical
vote for U.S. leadership in the world and a critical vote for the
health of the U.S. economy."
Supporters of GATT see the agreement as a historic step toward
freer and more open markets, creating new opportunities for U.S.
goods and services. Consumers should also benefit from dramatically
reduced tariffs, which will lower the price of imported products.
Clinton has called GATT "the largest international tax cut in
Opposition to GATT has focused primarily on the World Trade
Organization that would be created under the agreement to enforce
trade rules. Critics charge that the trade organization could force
the United States to choose between paying penalties or changing
health, safety and environmental laws if a majority of the
organization's members believe the laws are impediments to trade.
"The U.S. can be out-voted by any two dictatorships in the
world," Nader complained.
Senate In Question
It is expected that there will be enough support to approve
GATT in the House. Most of the lobbying has focused on the Senate,
where opponents intend to raise a budgetary point of order against
Under Senate rules, any legislation that adds to the federal
deficit must be approved by 60-vote supermajority. Implementing
GATT would cost the U.S. government about $40 billion in lost
tariffs over 10 years. …