|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN|
|Tuesday, April 11, 2000||202-224-0894|
Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, appeared today before the International Trade Commission as a witness in the commission's fact-finding investigation on the possible impact of expanding the North American Free Trade Agreement to include the United Kingdom. Excerpts from Gramm's statement follow:
"The problem that I want to point out today is that regional trading blocs have not turned out to be the stepping stones to world free trade as we had hoped.
"In fact, the European Union has increasingly become protectionist. When it expanded its membership recently to Scandinavian nations, they were forced as part of the agreement to enter the European Union to raise their tariffs on American goods and goods worldwide.
"The world has to decide whether it is going to be organized around trading blocs or whether we're going to move toward a world free trade agreement.
"I am very much in favor of free trade. I think all of the evidence is that free trade promotes prosperity and job creation.
"The question is how we can take action that would bring pressure to bear on the European Community to dismantle the wall it is building. It seems to me the way to do it is to have the two nations in the world that have been most committed to free trade, that are closest in values and institutions, to seek to form a free trade agreement.
"A free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom would in essence build a bridge between the world's two greatest trading associations, the European Union and NAFTA.
"I know some people in Britain and in the Labor government have viewed this effort as an effort to pull Britain away from Europe. That is not my objective. My objective is to provide leadership in breaking down protectionism.
"Now it is true that the Treaty of Rome provides that member nations give up the ability to set their own trade policy and enter into commercial treaties, but that can be changed.
"If we were to bring pressure on the European Union to make that change, what greater pressure could there be than an effort to form a free trade agreement between the most important member of NAFTA and its closest friend in the world, both economically and politically? Where else would you build a bridge between these two great trading associations? Where would the anchors of that bridge be except in the United States and the United Kingdom?
"I believe that we can promote world trade, that we can begin to bring pressure on the European Union to knock down trade barriers. I think we can ultimately be the catalyst for world free trade by promoting a free trade agreement between the United States and United Kingdom.
"That's the reason I sought this study. Let me reiterate: I am not interested in pulling the United Kingdom away from Europe. I am interested in breaking down the barriers that are being erected around Europe, which set a pattern that could be replicated in NAFTA and other regional trading blocs. The net result would be a decline in world trade, rather than an expansion in world trade."