After 7 Years, 117 Nations Agree: Cut Tariffs, Open Trade
Compiled From News Services, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Amid scenes of exhilaration, officials from 117 countries approved on Wednesday a world trade treaty that they hailed as opening up markets and spurring economic growth into the 21st century.
The new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, slashes tariffs on thousands of manufactured products, smashing export barriers on everything from computer chips to potato chips. It also expands for the first time the rules of world trade to cover agricultural products and the rapidly expanding services sector.
"I intend to raise this gavel and to conclude the Uruguay Round as a success after seven long years," said Peter Sutherland, head of the trade talks, as he banged the table to loud applause and the flash of cameras.
The endorsement of GATT followed years of negotiations, missed deadlines and wars of words. It was clinched virtually overnight after the United States and European Community resolved their differences Tuesday.
"Today the world has chosen openness and cooperation instead of uncertainty and conflict," Sutherland said. "I am convinced that today will be seen as a defining moment in modern economic and political history."
But the 400-page agreement still faces contentious legislative battles before it can take effect in 1995. It must be formally signed in Morocco in April; in the United States, Congress cannot begin debating the measure before April 15, at the earliest.
President Bill Clinton called the pact an early Christmas gift that "cements our position of leadership in the new global economy."
Clinton also said, "This agreement did not accomplish everything we wanted . . . but today's GATT accord does meet the test of a good agreement."
Two key members of Congress, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Daniel P. Moynihan of New York and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, also welcomed the conclusion of the negotiations.
"Our job now is to determine whether the agreement serves the best economic interests of the United States and, further, how to `pay for' the resultant loss of tariff revenue," Moynihan said.
Rostenkowski, a Democrat from Illinois, said the effort of the U.S. negotiating team "was an investment that will pay off in the creation of a larger and healthier international economy in the years ahead."
Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, D-Ind., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he expected Congress to approve the accord. But he added: "I make that assertion with less confidence than I did a few weeks ago."
The agreement will establish a new World Trade Organization with tougher enforcement powers to succeed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade agency, based here in Geneva. The change became possible after the United States was satisfied that the new agency would be unable to overturn U.S. trade laws.
There were a number of compromises in the final days of bargaining as various protected industries successfully fought to retain their barriers against foreign competition. …