For a US Department of Trade
From remarks by Senator Roth (R) of Delaware before the National Press Club in Washington. I say let them play taps at somebody else's funeral. As long as I am a member of the US Senate, I do not intend to allow our trade policy - or lack of one - to negate the important and useful changes that have been made to bolster our domestic economy.
Accordingly, I introduced a bill to establish a Cabinet-level Department of Trade. I am convinced that this country needs to update and upgrade its trade policy. I am fully committed to this conversion. I intend to give this legislation priority treatment in my committee.
I believe that unless the administration joins my committee's efforts to bring S. 121 to the Senate floor, it could very easily lose control of the protectionist mood that now exists in Congress.
Unless we act now to implement responsible trade legislation, we could see congressional approval of legislation to impose import quotas or domestic content restrictions on a wide range of industrial products, such as autos and machine tools.
We might see a move to require country-by-country, product-by-product trade balancing, so that the US will not suffer the damaging trade deficits that plague us today.
Under my plan, we would build a new lean, mean Department of Trade using the office of the US trade representative as a core. The new Department of Trade would consolidate all nonagricultural trade and investment analysis, policymaking, negotiation and implementation functions into one agency. By so doing, we would reduce duplication and contradiction in the executive branch's trade policymaking process. We would ensure follow-through on negotiations and guarantee that our rights in domestic and foreign markets were aggressively pursued. We would have one strong voice in the Cabinet and the White House to articulate and act on our trade- and investment-related priorities.
Most important, my Trade Reorganization Act would not just be a futile gesture aimed at moving around the boxes that are displayed in government operations manuals. I do not believe, for instance, that merely dumping areas of responsibility into the existing Commerce Department - like some bills suggest we do - would enhance our trading efforts in the slightest.
The Commerce Department already resembles a grab bag of unrelated functions. If the trade functions were put in Commerce, it would be like relegating them to a bureaucratic graveyard. The only champions of such an approach - for obvious reasons - would be those who are more interested in gaining turf than in gaining markets. In fact, the only ones who would gain from consolidating trade in the Commerce Department are the Japanese and the Europeans.
I challenge those in the Congress who choose to listen with an uncritical ear to the pleas of business and labor for legislative relief from foreign competition. I, for one, have little sympathy with an industry that comes up to Capitol Hill, hat in hand, asking for protection when neither the business nor labor segment of that industry has made any effort to modernize and become more competitive.
Providing government protection for industries that will not take measures necessary to compete in the international marketplace does nothing more than encourage the notion that the good old days can be revived by legislative fiat. They cannot.