Chairman Daniel J. Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) promised yesterday that his House Ways and Means Committee will streamline the nation's trade laws by the end of the year to make it easier for U.S. companies to get sanctions against unfair trading practices of other countries.
He said there are "very tough trade laws" already on the books, but indicated that "reform" is needed to cut the delays and high costs that occur before American companies can get relief from barriers thrown up by trading partners.
Furthermore, American business' complaints about unfair trade practices often are given short shrift because of what a long series of administrations have considered overriding national security or foreign policy concerns, Rostenkowski told a group of Midwest businessmen.
It was Rostenkowski's first speech devoted to trade since he became chairman two and a half years ago of the Ways and Means Committee, which has primary jurisdiction for trade laws in the House.
Despite his call for tougher use of trade laws, Rostenkowski denounced the rising tide of protectionism--which has spawned more than a dozen bills this year--as "a menace." At the same time, he termed the Reagan administration notion of free trade "a myth," and said "neither holds the answer for the future."
His answer is to reorder trade priorities to make the government an advocate of U.S. business and labor needs while acting to stimulate industries to become more competitive.
In return for import or tax relief, Rostenkowski said, businesses should be forced into retraining or reinvestment programs. He also suggested a national industrial policy that pares down overcapacity in industries such as steel, perhaps with the help of trading partners, and he supported a review of antitrust laws to make it easier to spur research.
He attacked the administration's refusal to intervene to bring down the overvalued dollar, which he said invites a flood of imports while increasing the cost of U.S. goods overseas, and called for the stabilization of the world monetary system.