|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN|
|Friday, July 21, 2000||202-224-0894|
Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, made the following comments today at a committee hearing on the nominations of Robert S. LaRussa to be Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, and Marjory E. Searing to be Assistant Secretary and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service of the Department of Commerce:
"We have before us today two of the president's nominees for positions at the Department of Commerce. Ms. Searing is a career government employee. She has been a member of the senior executive service for 18 years. She is a person whose work is well known and appreciated in our government. Bob LaRussa has been confirmed by the Congress before. We are very happy to have both of them before this committee. "I have always taken a pretty strong position that elections have consequences. When we are looking at administration appointments that run for the term of the president, with all other things being equal, the president has a right to have his own people. In economic areas, especially with the Council of Economic Advisers, I think the president has had good nominees.
"Obviously, I am encouraged that people can find rewarding careers in government. Whether we have a Democrat or Republican president, we need good people to carry out their policies. My problems are often more with the policies that with the people trying to carry them out.
"I would like to share an observation about trade issues. I would say that of a hundred people who come to my office to talk to me about trade issues, 99 of them convey this message: 'These foreigners are cheating, and we want you to let us cheat. Foreigners are ripping off their consumers, and we want you to retaliate by ripping off our consumers.'
"Their message is basically that they want to block goods coming into the United States of America. They may talk about the fact that they can't sell such and such in Japan, but when you ask them, 'What can we do to open up Japan?' they really aren't interested in opening up Japan. They're interested in closing the market in the United States of America.
"We all understand the benefits of exports, but I think people don't understand the benefit of imports.
"I remember vividly when we had auto workers and auto makers come to Washington in the mid-1980s saying that the United States was going to be driven out of the automobile business by foreign imports. And President Reagan in essence told them to compete or die.
"I had a 1983 American-made truck that was a junker. And I was happy to get rid of it when it had 44,000 miles on it. It was a wreck. I bought a 1991 American-made truck that now has 150,000 miles on it. It has never had a major repair.
"My point is that the domestic companies didn't want to make a better truck, but they had to. I now would hold up our cars, our trucks as standards for the world. That's a benefit I got from imports. Even though I didn't buy a truck made somewhere else, I benefitted from imports because they forced management and labor at U.S. automakers to respond to the consumer by producing better vehicles.
"I hope in your work in these waning months of the administration, you would keep in mind that the guy who would like to eat a better tomato or drive a better truck won't be knocking on your door. Instead, you will hear from the guys who don't care if Americans drive poorer trucks or eat inferior tomatoes.
"I leave you with that story."