Out of Africa.
Q: Why a trade bill directed at Africa?
A: We have endeavored to reduce tariffs around the world. In 1950, the average tariff, worldwide, was 40 percent. Today, it's 4 percent. The exception to that rule has been trade with Sub-Saharan Africa, where the average tariff on textiles is still 18 percent.
Q: You've been at this for years. Why did it pass now?
A: Our arguments about moving Africa from aid to trade made it difficult for people to say, "We're all for foreign aid to Africa, but we're against opening our markets to African goods. Don't let them sell any cloth or textiles in the United States." It's difficult to argue that the only approach we could have to Africa is one of dependency.
Q: Supporters of trade always highlight increased exports, not the benefits of inexpensive imports. Why is it so tough to sell trade based on the idea that if people elsewhere can do something more efficiently, we ought to let them?
A: People don't immediately grasp comparative advantage. It took Adam Smith a generation to convince the British Empire that mercantilism wasn't in its interest. We've had the same resistance even with the evidence right before our eyes: the lowest unemployment numbers and the greatest creation of wealth in recent U.S. history.
I've joked with colleagues that if I put in the Smoot-Hawley Act today, we could find a number of representatives who would co-sponsor it before they realized it was the same bill that helped set off a worldwide depression. This is a struggle that has gone on for years, and will continue to go on. What I saw in Seattle convinces me that there is tremendous pent-up hostility that is directed not just at trade but at liberalizing markets and technology. There is this reactionary element in society. This is a battle of ideas.
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|Title Annotation:||Rep. Edward Royce on Africa trade bill|
|Author:||Lynch, Michael W.|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2000|
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