John F. Kennedy photo

Address Before the Conference on Trade Policy.

May 17, 1962

Congressman Mills, Mr. Taft, Ambassador Lodge, Senator Humphrey--ladies and gentlemen:

I want to express my great appreciation to Wilbur Mills who has seen and taken advantage of a unique opportunity to serve his State and country and the whole free world by the untiring efforts that he is now applying, with the greatest possible skill, and courage, and diligence, to securing the passage of an effective trade bill. If he can't do it, no one else could.

And I'm grateful to all of you--to Mr. Taft who has labored in this field for so long--to Ambassador Lodge who has rendered invaluable service in this great effort in countless ways--to Mr. Clayton and Christian Herter who I do not believe are here, but who helped lay the groundwork for a great national effort, wholly separate from the parties, and to all of you. I hope that in this effort in which you are engaged, at this meeting and on other occasions, you appreciate how vital and significant your efforts are. If we are making progress in this area this year, as I believe we are, it has been due to the enormous work done by countless citizens, many of them anonymous, who recognize that the idea and the hour and the opportunity have all struck.

When I submitted to the Congress the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, I called it "the expression of a nation, not of any single faction or section." And that is true, and it's indicated by the fine messages of President Hoover and President Eisenhower and President Truman, of the support that's been given this by Vice President Nixon and Alf Landon and others, who recognize this as a national challenge and opportunity, and not that that belongs to any party.

The trade of a nation expresses in a very concrete way its aims and its aspirations. When the people of Boston in 1773 threw cargoes of tea into the harbor, the American Revolution was in effect under way, symbolized by this revolution against a tariff--a tariff which meant taxation without representation. When our nation turned, in the Nineteenth Century, to its own protective tariffs as an aid to industrial development, they symbolized a policy of non-involvement and of isolation, of detachment, from the affairs of the world. When protectionism, in spite of the efforts of President Hoover, reached its zenith in the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, it reflected a national lack of confidence and growth. And then, in 1934, under the leadership of Cordell Hull, the United States started on the long road back both from protectionism and isolationism.

As the reciprocal trade program was renewed and refined through eleven acts of Congress, under the successive leaderships of President Roosevelt, President Truman, President Eisenhower, it became more and more an expression of America's free world leadership--a symbol of America's aim to encourage free nations to grow together, through trade and travel, through a common defense, through aiding the development of poorer nations, and through an increasing exchange of capital and culture.

And now the time has come for a new chapter in American trade policy--a chapter that symbolizes our new great aspirations: for greater growth at home, greater progress around the world, and above all, the emergence of a greater Atlantic partnership.

In recent days some doubts have been heard about the reality of this concept of Atlantic partnership. Fears have been expressed on this side of the Atlantic that the United States may be excluded from the councils and the markets of Europe. And fears have been expressed on the other side of the Atlantic that the United States may some day abandon its commitment to European security.

But I want to emphasize tonight, to all the peoples of the Western Alliance, that I strongly believe that such fears are folly. The United States cannot withdraw from Europe, unless and until Europe should wish us gone. We cannot distinguish its defenses from our own. We cannot diminish our contributions to Western security or abdicate the responsibilities of power. And it is a fact of history that responsibility and influence-in all areas, political, military and economic--ultimately rise and fall together. No nation can long bear the heaviest burdens of responsibility without sharing in the progress and decisions--just as no nation can assert for long its influence without accepting its share of these burdens. And our policies in Europe today are founded on one deep conviction: that the threat to Western Europe and freedom is basically indivisible, as is the Western deterrent to that threat.

The United States, therefore, is committed to the defense of Europe, by history as well as by choice. We have no wish to join, much less to dominate, the European community. We have no intention of interfering in its internal affairs. But neither do we hope or plan to please all of our European allies, who do not always agree with each other, on every topic of discussion--or to base those decisions which affect the long run state of the common security on the short-term state of our popularity in the various capitals of Europe.

Let us remember that we are working with allies, with equals--and both our allies and ourselves have a responsibility to speak frankly as well as constructively on all issues affecting the West. If the Alliance were to stand still, if we were to pursue a policy of merely patching over the status quo with the lowest common denominator of generalities, no doubt all disagreements could be avoided or postponed. But dissent does not mean disunity--and disagreement can surely be healthy, so long as we avoid, on both sides of the Atlantic, any ill-tempered or ill-conceived remarks which may encourage those who hope to divide and conquer.

We cannot and do not take any European ally for granted--and I hope no one in Europe would take us for granted either. Our willingness to bear our full share of Western defenses is deeply felt--but it is not automatic. American public opinion has turned away from isolation--but its faith must not be shattered. Our commitment, let it be remembered, is to a common united defense, in which every member of the Western Community plays a full and responsible role, to the limit of his capability and in reliance on the strength of others-and it is that commitment which will be fulfilled. As long as the United States is staking its own national security on the defense of Europe, contributing today 425,non men at an annual cost--in the balance of payments, and therefore in dollars, and therefore potentially in gold--of one billion six hundred million dollars to Europe, and calling up 160,000 men--at a budgetary cost of three billion, five hundred million dollars since last July--in a far greater effort than that of any other country in response to last summer's crisis, we will continue to participate in the great decisions affecting war and peace in that area. A coherent policy cannot call for both our military presence and our diplomatic absence.

I am confident that Atlantic unity represents the true course of history--that Europe and the United States have not joined forces for more than a decade to be divided now by limited vision and suspicions. The direction of our destiny is toward community and confidence--and the United States is determined to fulfill that destiny.

far from resenting the rise of a united Europe, this country welcomes it--a new Europe of equals instead of rivals--a new Europe, born of common ideals, instead of the old Europe, torn by national and personal animosities. We look forward to its increased role, as a full and equal partner, in both the burdens and the opportunities of aid, trade, finance, diplomacy and defense. We look forward to the strengthening of world peace that would result from a European Community in which no member could either dominate or endanger the others. And surely, may I add, each member would find in the fabric of European unity and Atlantic Partnership an opportunity for achievement, of grandeur, and for a voice in its own destiny, far greater than it would find in the more traditional and vulnerable fabrics of disunity and mutual distrust.

The debate now raging in Europe echoes on a grand scale the debates which took place in this country between 1783 and 1789. Small states are sometimes fearful of big ones. Big states are suspicious for historical reasons of one another. Some statesmen cling to traditional forms--others clamor for new ones. And every eye is on the hostile powers who are never far away. All this reminds us of our own organic deliberations.

But whatever the final resolution of today's debates, Western unity is not an end in itself. Collective security and deterrence are not enough. The time and the opportunity that they afford us are not worth the risk and the effort they require if we do not use them for constructive ends. If there is to be a new Atlantic partnership, it must be a partnership of strong, not weak, economies--of growing, not declining, societies. And the great attraction of trade expansion for the United States is not only its contribution to a grand design of Atlantic Partnership, but its practical benefits to our own economy as well.

For today we wish to step up our growth--and trade expansion, by increasing exports as well as imports, and providing new outlets and new jobs, will help expand that growth.

We wish to avoid inflation--and trade expansion, by inspiring American businessmen to modernize for competition abroad, and by introducing new import competition here, will help to prevent that inflation.

We wish to improve our balance of payments-and trade expansion, by increasing our export surplus, will enable us to correct this deficit without imposing new restrictions or reneging on our security pledges.

We wish to increase investment at home-and trade expansion, by putting American businessmen on an equal footing with their European counterparts in terms of access to the Common Market, will help make it unnecessary for our industries to build new plants behind the Common Market wall instead of here at home.

We wish to increase the American standard of living--and trade expansion, by enlarging the supply of goods from abroad and stretching the consumer's dollar further, will help every American family.

There are many more gains that could be mentioned. Trade expansion will help spur plant modernization; it will turn the attention of the government and industry to how to make our plants more competitive, and how to put them on a basis of equality with those goods that are being imported; it will help provide outlets for our farm surpluses; and even help reduce existing budget costs--by lessening the costs of imported raw materials, for example, for our national defense, and ultimately the cost of foreign aid to those nations now denied the opportunity to earn foreign exchange for their own development.

We have prospered mightily during this period of the reciprocal trade program. Our exports, a meager $2 billion a year during the three years before the enactment of the first Trade Agreements Act in 1934, have increased tenfold to some $20 billion. Every American is richer because of this great effort.

And yet, until recently, and this remains one of our most serious problems today in the Congress, most Americans were largely unaware of the benefits of foreign trade. Many can "see" an import--but very few could "see" an export. While both labor and management in other nations--such as Britain and Japan--recognize that they must trade or die, we have for a long time remained, in both labor and management, largely unconcerned.

Today I believe all this is changing, but it's not, obviously, changing fast enough. American businessmen are determined to share in the phenomenal growth of the .Common Market, but we want every American businessman to be looking all around the world for a place in which he can participate successfully in private investment. The Japanese economy as well is growing at the spectacular rate of 8 percent a year or more. Over the past five years Americans have sold in Japan one and a half billion dollars more than we have bought from Japan.

In short, this trade expansion program can benefit us all. I don't say that there won't be some changes in our economy which will require adjustment. But we will be producing more of what we produce best, and others will be producing more of what they produce best. There'll be new employment in our growth industries--and this will come mostly in our high wage industries which are our most competitive abroad--and less new employment in some others. But these shifts go on every week in our lives, in this country, as the result of domestic competition. At the very most, the number of workers who will have to change jobs as a result of this new trade policy will not in a whole year equal the number of workers who have to change jobs every three weeks because of competitive changes here at home. And yet for these workers we are planning special assistance.

There may be a few cases--a very few cases--where individual companies or groups of workers will face genuine hardships in trying to adjust to this changing world and market, and lack the resources to do so. Our bill seeks to take out an insurance policy for these cases called Trade Adjustment Assistance, which has worked so well in the Common Market. It is constructive and businesslike programs of loans and allowances tailored to help firms and workers get back into the competitive stream through increasing or changing productivity. Instead of the dole of tariff protection, we are substituting an investment in better production.

In addition, we have made special arrangements for such industries as textiles and oil. And finally, we are retaining an escape clause for those emergencies where an entire industry requires the temporary relief of tariff protection as the result of abrupt changes in trading patterns.

But let us not miss the real point: let us not focus ourselves so much on these insurance policies that we forget the great new positive opportunities opened to us in trade. To falter now, or become afraid of economic challenges in this country which has been second to none in all of our history in our ability to compete, or become impatient in the face of difficult and delicate diplomatic problems, or make it impossible for those Americans who represent us in these negotiations to effectively speak for this country because of provisions written into bills which make it impossible for them even though they bear the responsibility. They do not bear the authority if these powers are too circumscribed, so that we will end with an illusion of a tool to serve us, but not a reality. Unless we can concentrate our attention on what is an historic opportunity, we could well undo all the great achievements of this nation in building this great Atlantic Community.

There is an old Chinese saying that each generation builds a road for the next. The road has been well built for us, and I believe it incumbent upon us, in our generation, this year of 1962, to build our road for the next generation. And I believe that this bill is it.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at the Sheraton-Park Hotel in Washington at a dinner session of the conference on trade policy held under the auspices of the Coordinating Council of Organizations on International Trade.

In his opening words the President referred to Representative Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansas, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; Charles P. Taft, General Counsel for the Committee for National Trade Policy; Henry Cabot Lodge, former Ambassador to the United Nations; and Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota. Later in his remarks he referred to William L. Clayton and Christian A. Herter, who worked jointly in an advisory capacity with the Subcommittee on foreign Economic Policy of the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.

For the President's statement upon signing the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, see Item 449-

John F. Kennedy, Address Before the Conference on Trade Policy. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives