|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN|
|Wednesday, May 10, 2000||202-224-0894|
Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, made the following statement today during Senate debate on the African Growth and Opportunity Act:
"This bill is really an opportunity for us to open up our markets for goods from some of the poorest countries in the world. I know there are some who say that even though this will mean that clothing will be cheaper for American consumers, somehow there is a sacrifice involved. I fail to see it.
"I see everybody benefiting from trade. Desperately poor people in Africa have an opportunity to produce products that can be sold in America, and we can raise their living standards and our own through the miracle of world trade.
"This is not a perfect bill. I wish that it were less protectionist. One provision in the bill requires that in order for textiles from sub-Saharan Africa to come into the country they have to be made out of American yarn and American thread. I think that is going to reduce their competitiveness, but I appreciate that the conference put an exception for the 41 countries that have per capita incomes below $1,500 a year.
"It is important for us to promote world trade. I know that some believe that trade helps rich people and big companies, but I believe that trade helps working people. It creates jobs, creates opportunity and expands freedom.
"I would have to say that I do not understand how, with a straight face, the textile industry is so adamantly opposed to this bill. Even if we unleashed all of the energies of sub-Saharan Africa and all of their productive capacity to export textiles to America, they would have no substantial impact on our market.
"I don't understand why we continue to let special interests in America direct our government to limit our ability to buy goods that would raise the living standards of working Americans. I think it is outrageous and unfair. It is important that we stand up against these protectionist forces. Who gives the American textiles industry the right to say that as a free person, I can't buy a better shirt or a cheaper shirt produced somewhere in the world? How is America diminished by it? I say it is not. My freedom is expanded by it.
"So we have a mixture of protectionism and trade in this bill. I think overall it is a movement in the right direction, and when the multi-fiber agreement is implemented, we will open up trade in textiles.
"As late as five years ago the average American family paid $700 more a year for clothing because of textile protection in America than they would with free trade. This is a small step in the right direction. The world will be made a little better, a little freer by it. I rejoice in it and I support it."