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Letter to the Chairmen, Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees, on Extending the Trade Agreements Act.

January 08, 1949

My dear Mr._______:

In my message on the State of the Union I asked the Congress to act promptly to extend the Trade Agreements Act without the hampering restrictions placed on it by the last Congress.

As you know, negotiations will begin in April to extend the benefits of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to thirteen countries that did not participate in the original Agreement. This General Agreement, concluded in the autumn of 1947, is the most important and comprehensive trade agreement in history. Under it, the United States and twenty-two other nations agreed to reduce their tariffs, or to maintain low tariffs or none at all, on a wide variety of products. The products affected accounted in 1938 for over half of the world's international trade. In addition, the participating countries agreed to curb the use of other trade restrictions, such as import quotas, and to limit various kinds of discrimination, such as preferential treatment of imports from one country as against those from another. Never before have so many nations combined in such an intensive effort to reduce barriers to trade.

The extension of the benefits of this Agreement under the authority of the Trade Agreements Act is a practical cooperative effort to remove unnecessary obstacles to the building of a stable and prosperous world. The restrictive provisions and limited extension of the present trade agreements law materially hamper the effectiveness of United States participation in this effort. That is why it is so important that the existing Trade Agreements Act be promptly repealed, and that the Act as it existed on March 1, 1948, be extended for a further substantial period. I suggest that this period be until June 12, 1951.

Unless nations can sell each other the products of their agriculture, labor and industry to the greatest possible extent, there can be no sure foundation for economic peace. Unless world trade is increased, the tremendous investment we are making toward world economic recovery will be largely wasted. Unless trade restrictions are relaxed, the lot of the private trader in international trade will become increasingly difficult.

In the achievement of these objectives, United States leadership and United States action is a decisive influence.

The trade agreements program has proved itself to the people of the United States. It has justly earned their overwhelming support. We must be in a position to press that program forward with vigor.

I know that I can count on your continued support in securing necessary action to this end at the earliest possible date.

Sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Walter F. George, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and the Honorable Robert L. Doughton, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

For the President's statement upon signing the Trade Agreements Extension Act of 1949, see Item 217.

Harry S Truman, Letter to the Chairmen, Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees, on Extending the Trade Agreements Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230048

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