Trade Legislation

Held Needed in 1987Senate Democratic leaders have asserted that trade legislation will have a high priority in the new Congress. They do not indicate specifically what kind of legislation they may try to enact. Hopefully what may emerge is a carefully crafted bill to promote U.S. competitiveness and trade expansion, rather than a rewarmed version of the 458-page omnibus trade bill, H.R. 4800, widely known as the "omnibus trade bill," adopted by the House of Representatives in the past session of the Congress.

Because H.R. 4800 will be reoffered in the new Congress, a recent Op Ed article, "Passing Trade Bill Makes Sense," by Harry L. Freeman, (JofC, Sept. 18), and a letter to the editor, "Trade Bill Article Deserves a Rerun," by Eugene L. Casraiss Jr., (JofC, Oct. 29) require comment. Both authors argue essentially that the good provisions of the bill outweigh the bad.

I disagree. Mr. Freeman in particular cites as redeeming qualities those provisions which extend the president's authority to conclude trade agreements, including the fast track legislative approval system. He also is encouraged by the recognition in the bill of the importance to U.S. exports of the debt problem of LDCs and the call for greater interagency coordination of trade and monetary policy and exchange rates.

Renewal of trade agreements authority is essential to the successful outcome of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. The overall effect of H.R. 4800 and many of its provisions, however, could scuttle those negotiations which are important to Mr. Freeman's American Express Co. and to many other American firms that wish to see both strengthened international trade rules in the GATT and new rules covering trade in services, intellectual property and investment.

Taken as a whole, H.R. 4800 would reverse traditional U.S. trade policy based upon multilateralism and upon trade expansion. The notorious Gephardt amendment would require the president to take action to arbitrarily reduce ''excessive" bilateral trade deficits. Other provisions of the bill would amend our trade laws to make it easier to restrict imports and would invite a growing number of trade disputes with U.S. trading partners. And H.R. 4800 would limit the discretion of the president to forestall specific actions in the national interest.

H.R. 4800 would depart from internationally agreed trade rules and would place the United States in violation of its international aid commitments. It would subject U.S. exports to retaliatory actions under international agreements and new barriers abroad similar to those provided for in H.R. 4800. It is understandable why President Reagan reacted so sharply to the bill, calling H.R. 4800 an "anti-trade bill." No American president could in good conscience sign a piece of legislation so adverse to the economic interests of the United States.

We need trade legislation in 1987. Such legislation is needed to permit the United States to adopt a strong leadership role in the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations and to enhance the international competitiveness of U.S. exports. We must strive for trade expansion, not trade restriction.

Julius L. Katz The Consultants International Group Inc. Washington, D.C. Mr. Katz was assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs.

Another Point of View

On Social Security

Mr. Beck's Op-Ed salvo, "Social Security Costs Too High," (JofC, Sept. 3) is "disinformation" of the kind that can only come from someone whose

financial situation is such that he will never be dependent on the fixed monthly income from a Social Security check.

Mr. Beck claims that Social Security recipients of retirement benefits receive more than they paid into the system. He apparently forgot that these recipients, over the term of their productive and wage earning life with their Social Security taxes also financed government payments to jobless, indigents and immigrants whose only claim to Social Security payments is a minimum six- month stay in this country.

As the chairman and CEO of an insurance company, Mr. Beck certainly knows that if an individ ual would have paid an amount equal to Social Security tax into a private retirement insurance fund, that individual would receive, upon retirement, a sum (adjusted for inflation, as Social Security is) generating monthly income at least 50 percent to 80 percent higher than any Social Security payment.

Mr. Beck suggests that Social Security payments should be taxed "in the same manner as income from private pension plans." Is he not aware that this is already being done? The Republican administration, with the cooperation of the Democratic Congress decreed three years ago to collect income tax from 50 percent of social security payments to those with a yearly income of over $25,000.

As to Medicare, the Republican administration and the Democratic Congress have hiked the deductible for medical expenses (the amount that cannot be claimed on income tax returns) from 2 1/2 percent to 5 percent of the adjusted gross. And if tax reform will have its way, this deductible will be further increased to 7 1/2 percent.

Also in the tax reform is the elimination of double exemptions for persons over 65 - until now one of the most cherished and financially most important ''privileges" of retirees' income tax returns. The hardest hit by this provision will again be those dependent on the fixed income of a Social Security check.

Felix Grab Novato, Calif.

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