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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 16, 1997


The Export Expansion and Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1997

Today, President Clinton transmitted to the Congress the "Export Expansion and Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1997." This proposal is designed to renew "fast-track" procedures for trade agreements requiring congressional approval and implementation as well as to renew the President's authority to proclaim tariff reductions in return for tariff reduction commitments by U.S. trading partners.


The proposal reactivates a partnership between the President and the Congress that dates back over 6 decades. Recognizing that the high protective U.S. tariff walls it established in 1930 had only served to deepen the Depression, the Congress 4 years later enacted the first reciprocal trade agreements act. In that act, the Congress gave the President authority to negotiate mutual tariff reductions with our trading partners. The Congress renewed that authority repeatedly over the years, and successive Presidents used the authority to dramatically reduce tariff barriers around the world.

"Fast track," first put in place under the Ford Administration, is a further expression of the partnership between the President and the Congress in bringing down barriers to U.S. exports. Under fast track the Congress and the President work together, ensuring that the United States can effectively negotiate away foreign tariff barriers to U.S. products as well as non-tariff barriers -- such as quotas, protectionist product standards, and subsidies -- which foreign governments have increasingly substituted for tariffs to exclude U.S. products. Fast track lapsed along with most of the President's tariff reduction authority 3 years ago.

The President's Proposal

The President's proposed legislation serves to reunite the Congress and the President in trade negotiations. The President's proposal ensures that the Congress is fully integrated into the formulation of U.S. goals, strategies, and decision-making for each trade negotiation subject to fast-track procedures. Because the Congress and the President are united under the proposal, it tells U.S. trading partners that the United States speaks at the bargaining table with one voice and that the Congress will not seek to reopen trade agreements after they are negotiated.

The proposal also renews the President's longstanding tariff-cutting authority. The proposal adds a provision that will allow the President to implement new tariff harmonization or elimination agreements on a sectoral or regional basis, consistent with World Trade Organization rules.

The proposal calls for the President's tariff reduction authority and the new fast-track procedures to remain in effect until October 1, 2001. The President may request an extension of his tariff-cutting authority and "fast-track" procedures through September 30, 2005, subject to disapproval by either House of the Congress.

A summary of the key provisions of the proposal follows.

Negotiating Objectives

The proposal sets out "overall" and "principal" trade negotiating objectives for the President. The objectives call on U.S. negotiators to seek, for example:

Trade Agreements Covered by the President's Proposal

The President may negotiate and bring back to the Congress for fast-track congressional approval and implementation trade agreements addressing tariff barriers, nontariff barriers, or both.

Making the Congress a Partner in Trade Negotiations

In order for an implementing bill to qualify for fast-track procedures, the President must comply with numerous notice and consultation provisions designed to ensure that the Congress is a full partner with the President in critical trade negotiations. These provisions enable the Congress to set priorities, provide advice, and exercise oversight at all stages of the negotiations and after the agreement is concluded. That ensures that congressional views will be fully reflected both in the final agreement and in the manner in which the agreement is carried out. Moreover, if the Congress concludes that the President has not adequately consulted the Congress regarding a proposed agreement, the proposal creates an expedited procedure for the Congress to refuse to apply fast-track procedures.

Enhancing the Role of the Public and the Private Sector

The proposal adds to existing law by ensuring that the public is fully informed of the negotiations and that the President receives advice from both the private sector and the public concerning the negotiations.

Fast-Track Procedures

Provided the President observes each of the proposal's notice, consultation, and other procedures in connection with the negotiation of a trade agreement, the agreement and its implementing legislation are subject to fast-track consideration in the Congress. Fast-track rules call for the Congress to vote on qualifying trade agreements and implementing legislation without amendment within 60 "legislative days" -- typically a period of several months or more.

Under the President's proposal, new statutory provisions or other changes in U.S. law required to carry out a trade agreement may be included in fast-track implementing legislation only if the changes are both: (1) necessary or appropriate to implement the agreement; and (2) related to trade. These requirements prevent fast-track bills from being used to enact non-trade provisions.

Tariff-Cutting Authority

Under the renewed "proclamation authority," the President would be authorized to carry out agreements that reduce by up to 50 percent U.S. tariffs that currently exceed 5 percent ad valorem. The President would be able to eliminate duties of 5 percent or less. The proposal adds a provision that will allow the President to implement new tariff harmonization or elimination agreements on a sectoral or regional basis, consistent with World Trade Organization rules.

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