The chances are good that a representative of the United States will soon initial a package of trade agreements in Geneva signifying the successful conclusion to the Tokyo Round. Their final success answers the many doomsayers who prophesied failure at every step for more than four years.
Our activity now shifts from Geneva to Washington. We are bringing home a fair and balanced deal. Now we face the final hurdle -- congressional approval.
As we go to Congress, it is important for Americans everywhere to spend a bit of time thinking about trade issues. They will affect every aspect of our economic lives from our daily choices of goods and the prices we pay to our individual and national net worth.No one expects the average American, or even their elected representatives, to become experts on all of the complex technical details of trade. But each of us can understand its major thrust and certainly should do so in order to see through criticisms and claims made in the name of either "free trade" or "protectionism."
The benefits of our trade policies are geared to today's world rather than to some theoretical model. Responses, individual and institutional, which were valid in the 1950s, when this nation ran large trade surpluses, cannot be applied to the economic problems of the 1970s, with its tremendous deficits.
In specific terms, our achievements fall into these major categories: a) a new set of codes of conduct to meet modern economic realities; b) some major concessions for agriculture; c) another step in reducing industrial tariffs, which are much less important this time since they were the major focus of earlier rounds and are now quite low; and d) some solid progress in modernizing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) itself, including a reinforcement and acceleration of its dispute-settlement mechanisms and positive steps to bring the developing countries into the disciplines of the world-trading system.
Just within the area of nontariff barriers, one should be aware of these benefits:
We define and control the, use of subsidies where they affect trade, both in manufactured goods and agriculture.
We define the proper development and use of product standards so they are not applied in a discriminatory way to keep out our exports.
We set out severe penalties for those who attempt to move counterfeit-goods across international borders.
We open up a market potential of more than $20 billion for American producers among foreign governments who have systematically excluded us from their purchases.
We simplify and remove the possibilities for manipulation in customs valuation, and we make import licensing processes - frequent barriers in other countries - more clear, prompt and uniform.
We extend international rules to agriculture.
We provide for special agreements on key sectors such as steel and civilian aircraft.
This was an international negotiation, not an America-dictated result and, of course, we did not get all we wanted. Realistically I think we have about two-thirds of what we sought. That is a solid achievement. But there will be those who will ignore the positive and concentrate on the negative -- something we do all too often in this great nation.
We must beware of well-meaning purists. Their measure of progress is not the giant step forward we take from where we stand, but the gap still remaining to achieve the ideal. Although I admire their intelligence and dedication, I do not have much patience with their position. Their tactical thrust is often to attack "the politics of the deal" and the process of developing a political consensus that can assure national support and congressional approval. They imply that politics is something dirty and improper rather than recognizing that progress in a democracy is built on accommodating different views from all sections of our society. You will hear more and more of "Bob Strauss, the pragmatist and politician."
The struggle for congressional approval will be a pragmatic, political one. That is how democracy works. That is why the president asked me to take this job.
Congress isn't composed of theoreticians either. Instead, its members are, by and large, conscientious men and women who are struggling to represent appropriately the views of their diverse constituents. Many of these citizens have legitimate trade concerns that this administration is attempting to deal with in specific, practical, responsible and progressive ways. To do less would be an arrogant abdication of our public responsibility.
Today we stand at a decision point in world trade. The downside risk to our country is inestimable. We have one of every eight of our manufacturing jobs dependent on exports, and the output from one of every three acres of our agricultural land under cultivation finds its market in some other country. Moreover, trade-created jobs have been a major growth factor in our economy, helping us to expand to a record level of new jobs that has diminished our unacceptable level of unemployment.
We desperately need to expand this export capacity, and these trade agreements are a solid first step. We also need to improve our enforcement procedures to protect our workers and producers against those who would illegally enter our market. And we need to balance the interests of our people as buyers and consumers with their other interests as workers and investors. I believe President Carter has charted a careful course with these objectives in mind and I am proud to have been a part of that effort.
In this last step in the Tokyo Round, we will need support as Congress weighs the issues. As your negotiators, we were not reluctant to ask for important concessions from other countries. I am no less reluctant now to ask for personal, nonpartisan support for this approval process as well. A strong and positive vote by Congress will clearly be in the best interest of our country.