I am very reluctant to restrict international trade in any way. For 40 years, the United States has worked for the reduction of trade barriers around the world, and we are continuing to pursue this goal because this is the surest long-range way to create jobs here and abroad. Only problems as extreme as those faced by the American shoe industry could force me to seek even modest mandatory limits on imports. I have seen those special problems firsthand during visits to many shoe plants throughout the country.
The number of firms in the shoe industry dropped from 600 in 1968 to 380 today--a 40 percent decline. Employment in that same period fell by 30 percent, which represents a loss of 70,000 jobs. Imports from our two major overseas suppliers have increased by more than 100 percent in the last 2 years .and seem to be increasing even more rapidly in recent months.
I have decided to reject the restrictive tariff rate quota recommended by the International Trade Commission because that recommendation did not fairly balance our concerns for domestic jobs and production, inflationary pressures, and expanded world trade.
But I have also decided to grant import relief to our domestic shoe industry and have therefore instructed Special Trade Representative Robert Strauss to negotiate orderly marketing agreements with the appropriate foreign suppliers of shoes.
Over the long haul, the solution to difficulties in the shoe industry lies not in the restriction of imports but elsewhere--in innovation and modernization of our own production facilities and the financing to make these possible.
The American shoe industry needs an expanded and more effective program of assistance to help it meet foreign competition. I have directed the Secretary of Commerce to work directly with the Secretary of Labor and Ambassador Strauss in developing such a program. Toward this end, these officials will see that existing assistance programs work better.
In addition, I will recommend to Congress within 90 days any legislation which may be needed to provide:
--Technological aid to increase production efficiency and develop new production methods.
--Data and market research to pinpoint new marketing opportunities.
--Assistance for affected communities and workers.
--Help with promotion and marketing services.
--Financial assistance to support these initiatives.