John F. Kennedy on Free Trade
Helping Russia out of a jam was anathema to Capitol Hill hard-liners. Calling Kennedy's plan "indefensible," one of the hardest, Republican Senator Karl E. Mundt of South Dakota, had attached an amendment to the foreign aid bill prohibiting the Export-Import Bank from extending the credit.
The amendment would probably kill the wheat deal.
At the legislative leaders' breakfast on November 21, the day Kennedy left for Texas, Kennedy had insisted that the Mundt bill must be defeated.
All of us in the Senate meet endless examples of such conflicting pressures, which only reflects the inconsistencies inevitable in our complex economy. If we tell our constituents frankly that we can do nothing, they feel we are unsympathetic or inadequate. If we try and fail--usually meeting a counteraction from other Senators representing other interests--they say we are like all the rest of the politicians. All we can do is retreat into the Cloakroom and weep on the shoulder of a sympathetic colleague--or go home and snarl at our wives.
The 1962 bill gave the President a 5-year authority to cut all tariffs by as much as 50% and to cut tariffs down to zero on those commodities traded predominantly by the US. He never avoided the fact that, in order to sell more, we would have to buy more; and he proposed a measure to provide Federal "adjustment assistance" to firms and workers injured by any increase in imports deemed desirable. "It is time we recognized," he said, that trade is "no longer a matter of local economic interest but of high national policy. This bill by enabling us to strike a bargain with the common Market, will 'strike a blow' for freedom."
The granting of export licenses to sell wheat to the Russians was not prohibited under any of the statutes limiting commercial transactions with the Communists. But Congress had added to the Agricultural Act of 1961 an amendment opposing the sale of subsidized agricultural commodities to unfriendly nations. Republican legislators were already invoking this provision as an obstacle to any sale.
Kennedy decided to ignore it, and offered ample reason. It was only a non-binding declaration of intent. It had been adopted at the height of the Berlin crisis in a wholly different climate. And the subsidy went not to the foreign buyer but to the American heat farmer, regardless of where and whether the wheat was sold.
But the greatest challenge of all is posed by the growth of the European Common Market. Assuming the accession of the United Kingdom, there will arise across the Atlantic a trading partner behind a single external tariff similar to ours with an economy which nearly equals our own. Will we in this country adapt our thinking to these new prospects and patterns--or will we wait until events have passed us by?
This is the year to decide. The Reciprocal Trade Act is expiring. We need a new law--a wholly new approach--a bold new instrument of American trade policy. Our decision could well affect the economic growth of our Nation for a generation to come.
In short, we need not--and we shall not--take any action to increase the dollar price of gold from $35 an ounce--to impose exchange controls--to reduce our anti-recession efforts--to fall back on restrictive trade policies--or to weaken our commitments around the world.
KENNEDY: Many countries still keep restrictions against our goods, going all the way back to the days when there was a dollar shortage. Now there isn't a dollar shortage, and yet many of these countries continue to move against our goods. I believe that we must be able to compete in the market--steel and in all the basic commodities abroad--we must be able to compete against them because we always did because of our technological lead. We have to persuade these other countries not to restrict our goods coming in, not to act as if there was a dollar gap; and third, we have to persuade them to assume some of the responsibilities that up till now we've maintained, to assist underdeveloped countries make an economic breakthrough on their own. [But] we have to be able to compete in the world market.
|Other past presidents on Free Trade:||John F. Kennedy on other issues:|
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)
Past Vice Presidents:
Natural Law Party