A bipartisan group of 30 senators, asserting that trade remains a top priority on Capitol Hill, yesterday introduced sweeping legislation that Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) said would be the centerpiece of next year's congressional debate on trade.
"The strong bipartisan showing demonstrates well that we in Congress have to face up to the trade issue," said Dole, a cosponsor. "I will be willing to set aside time right now for action on the bill next year," he added.
"It addresses the major problems of U.S. trade, including the credibility of our laws, the effectiveness of GATT General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the Geneva-based organization that regulates world trade and the value of the dollar," added Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), principal sponsor of the bill.
Its support is broad-based, representing such divergent opinions on trade as those of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), the leading Democratic sponsor, and Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), who both have stressed the importance of the high dollar in the trade deficit, and Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.), who takes a more aggressive approach against unfair trade practices.
The bill would strengthen enforcement of unfair trade laws; remove presidential authority to overrule recommendations of the International Trade Commission; set congressional objectives for a new round of global trade talks; attack the high dollar; provide added World Bank and commercial financing to Third World countries that remove trade barriers, and make it easier for the United States to try to stop patent and copyright piracy.
It joins about eight other major trade bills currently before Congress. But this measure's strong bipartisan support, which includes 13 of the 20 members of the Finance Committee, assures that it will play a major role in the legislative jockeying over trade legislation when Congress reconvenes after the Christmas recess.
It even drew praise from Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), a Democratic presidential contender who introduced his own bill last month. He said the bill indicates "that leaders of both parties are finally moving away from the politics of protectionism."
On the House side, another sweeping bill is advancing, sponsored by Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the committee's ranking Republican, James T. Broyhill (N.C.) This measure is tougher than the Senate bill and has strong support from organized labor and some import-battered U.S. industries.
The bill was placed on a fast track by Dingell; it was introduced Tuesday, marked up by a subcommittee yesterday and was expected to be reported out of the full committee today.
The House Rules Committee, meanwhile, is scheduled to act this morning on the one piece of trade legislation passed this fall by Congress. It will be asked to move to the House floor the Senate-passed version of a bill to limit textile imports that added protection for the shoe and copper industry. A different version of the bill has already passed the House, which is likely to get the Senate-passed measure soon after the Thanksgiving recess. The bill faces an almost certain veto as a protectionist measure.
The bill introduced in the Senate yesterday, however, was described as a comprehensive measure that protects no industry or special interest. "The whole thrust is not protectionism but access, opening markets to American goods," said Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.).
The broad scope of the bill indicates the widely divergent views of many of its sponsors. Danforth said not all the sponsors agree on every item in the bill, but all approve of its general thrust. Besides the main bill, its 10 parts will be introduced as separate pieces of legislation.
Democrats, for instance, focused on what they see as the Reagan administration's inaction on record trade deficits, expected to soar to $150 billion this year.
"The president has abused the faith and trust we have given him to exercise and develop a very strong trade policy for our country. We are going to take it back in the Congress," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.).