|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
|CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN
|Monday, January 22, 2001
Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, made the following statement today with the introduction of four bills that would facilitate international trade:
Mr. President, trade has been very good for America and her people. Trade is our game, and we excel at it. In 1999, Americans exported a record $956 billion in goods and services. No other country even came close.
Trade has brought untold benefits to our people not the least of which are high-paying jobs, increased consumer choice, increased economic competitiveness. When Pericles spoke of Athens in his Funeral Oration, he might well have been speaking of us: ``The magnitude of our city draws the produce of the world into our harbor, so that to the Athenian the fruits of other countries are as familiar a luxury as those of his own.'' Those who peddle defeatism as they clamor for protectionist measures are subverting our best means of growth. As President Reagan warned in 1988, ``protectionism is destructionism.''
Let me point out to my colleagues that it is not just the United States that profits. The whole world has benefitted from the expansion of trade among nations. Trade has been a wealth-generating machine the likes of which the world has never seen. By committing ourselves to an open world trade system, the US and its partners unleashed increasing economic growth and prosperity and brought hope and freedom to more people than any victory in any war in history. It is no wonder that the world trading system we know of as the WTO -- formerly the GATT -- has gone from a handful of nations in 1948 to some 140 nations today.
My fervent goal has been to keep world trade expanding so that more people in more nations can enjoy what Pericles aptly called the ``fruits'' of trade. We in America have been at the vanguard of trade liberalization efforts, both globally and regionally. We must continue that trend. Unfortunately, over recent years this nation has slid into an unwise hiatus in moving new global or regional trade liberalization initiatives. But this year, with a new President, committed to trade, we have a new opportunity before us. Now is the time for us to reassert our leadership, to set the pace for trade expansion throughout our hemisphere and throughout the world.
Today I am introducing four pieces of legislation intended to get us started. The first bill, the Fast-Track Trade Negotiating Authority Act, would provide the President with much-needed fast track authority, so that he may expand trade by entering into trade agreements with our partners around the world. Fast track is key to unleashing the wealth-generating machine of trade still further, to all corners of the world. It is long past time to reauthorize this critical provision.
The second measure, the Americas Free Trade Act, would lead to the extension of free trade from Alaska to Cape Horn in our own hemisphere. It would provide the President with fast track authority for implementation of free trade agreements with any or all of the 33 other nations of the Western Hemisphere, for the benefit of its more than 800 million residents. According to the 1994 agreement among the leaders of the Western Hemisphere, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas should be concluded by 2005. Having fast track authority in hand will give our President the ability to move the FTAA talks forward dramatically and successfully.
Both the third bill, the Chile NAFTA Accession Act, and the fourth bill, the United Kingdom NAFTA Accession Act, seek to build bridges with key trading partners in order to spur larger trade liberalization efforts. Chile is a critical trading partner in South America who has been knocking at the NAFTA door for some time. The United Kingdom is a key partner in Western Europe who by joining NAFTA can help keep Europe from erecting protectionist walls against the rest of the world. Agreements with these two important nations can keep trade liberalization moving forward.
Mr. President, my commitment to this cause is longstanding. In 1986 I introduced legislation to begin negotiations for a free trade agreement with Mexico. In 1987, I introduced a bill that laid out a framework for negotiating a North American free trade area--a bill which later served as the basis for an amendment I offered to the 1988 trade bill and adopted by the Senate that authorized the negotiation of the NAFTA. In 1989, I once again introduced trade legislation and called for a free agreement encompassing the entire Western Hemisphere. I have introduced similar legislation in each Congress since then. It is my hope that the bills I am introducing today will serve as the basis for successful trade legislation in the 107th Congress.
Directs the President to initiate negotiations for trade agreements with the nations of the Western Hemisphere to promote a free trade area for the Hemisphere
Bars the application of the Act to Cuba until the President certifies that freedom has been restored in Cuba and US expropriation claims have been addressed
Applies fast-track procedures to implementing legislation for such agreements