President Carter will send to Congress today his compromise trade reorganization legislation, which consolidates trade policy in the executive office but also gives greater trade responsibility to the much criticized Commerce Department.
Reception to the legislation on Capitol Hill is expected to be lukewarm. It is considered far from ideal by some congressional sources, but a good first step toward better trade policy.
Opposition to the plan, which prompted one senator to label a draft of the legislation "a turkey," is expected to be neglible, one source said.
Congress is tired of haggling over differences in the bill and just wants to get something passed before the recently approved multilateral trade negotiation agreements become effective in January, sources said.
The trade reorganization program was drafted basically to implement the agreements.
One of the bill's major opponents, Sen. William V. Roth (R-Del.) a member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which overseees reorganizations, said he won't oppose the legislation. "He felt he couldn't get anything more out of this administration. He felt it could be a step toward a new department or better reorganization," a Roth aide said.
Roth and Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.) committee chairman, had supported a new trade department rather than the revamping of Commerce.
Ribicoff said, "The original plan was unacceptable to Sen. Roth and me. We have worked with the administration to improve it. As now amended the reorganization plan is a good first step."
Ribicoff added, however, that "the ultimate objective still must be a department of international trade."
Ribicoff said that the plan gives policy direction to the U.S. Trade Representative, a provision Roth also approved, and gives added trade responsibilities to Commerce. Roth's aide said the senator was pleased that responsibilities of commercial attaches were transferred from the State Department to Commerce, but on the legislation as a whole, "he's not happy about it."
The major difference in the legislation introduced today and the draft circulated this summer is that the office of the U.S. Trade Representative will be the major voice in trade policy, particularly that affecting exports.
The legislation was outlined Friday in a hastily called news briefing in the office of James T. McIntyre Jr., director of the Office of Management and Budget. The administration and congressional leaders had just finished conferring on the final form of the legislation Wednesday night, an OMB spokesman said.
One sensitive area was who would have authority over countervailing duties and antidumping responsibilities. Some congressmen wanted those functions in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Others said those duties should remain in the Treasury Department, despite criticism by business and congressional leaders that Treasury was doing a poor job.
The administration has decided to place those countervailing and antidumping functions in the Commerce Department, as it had originally planned, but under the auspices of a deputy secretary for trade and a separate office, McIntyre said.
McIntyre also said he has recommended that 100 "strong, new people" be added to those functions.