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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Urging Actions To Increase American Exports.

March 20, 1968

Dear Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker:)

In this letter I ask the Congress to take further steps to improve America's balance of payments position. That position is the hinge of the dollar's strength abroad and the soundness of the Free World monetary system.

Both actions I recommend today will help to increase America's exports--a vital element in the balance of payments equation. I urge the Congress to:

--Allocate $500 million of the Export-Import Bank's existing authority as a special fund to finance a broadened program to sell American goods in foreign markets.

--Approve promptly the $2.4 million supplemental appropriation which I submitted on March 11. This will enable the Commerce Department to launch a 5-year program to promote American exports.

Last year, the United States exported some $30 billion worth of products--the highest in our history. The trade surplus resulting from that commerce was about $3.5 billion-large but far from large enough.

Our concern now must be to improve that record as part of a long-term program to keep the dollar strong and to remove the temporary restraints on the flow of capital abroad.

For more than three decades, the Export-Import Bank has effectively encouraged the sale of American goods abroad. Through loans, guarantees and insurance, it has financed billions of dollars in U.S. exports-the products of our farms and factories. But new competitive conditions in world trade demand added scope and flexibility in the Bank's operations.

The $500 million allocation I am requesting will finance export transactions not covered under the Bank's present program. It will:

--Support the determined efforts of the entire business community to expand exports.

--Assist American firms who now sell only within the United States to expand their markets and send their goods abroad.

--Make available to American firms export financing more competitive with that provided by other major trading nations and especially suited to developing new markets.

To achieve the greatest benefit from this new export financing plan, I will establish an Export Expansion Advisory Committee. chaired by the Secretary of Commerce, to provide guidance to the Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank.

The Kennedy Round has added a new and exciting dimension to the expansion of trade opportunities for American business. We must be prepared to take full advantage of these and other opportunities now unfolding in foreign commerce. I believe that a long-range and sustained promotional program can go far to stimulate the flow of American exports.

In my Fiscal 1969 Budget, I requested a $25.7 million appropriation to launch such a program. In order to get an immediate start, I asked the Congress last week for a $2.4 million supplemental appropriation for Fiscal 1968. With these funds, we can participate in more trade fairs, establish Joint Export Associations for various industries, conduct marketing studies, and take other steps to stimulate the growth of sales abroad.

The new authority for the Export-Import Bank and the supplemental appropriation for export promotion will reinforce our trade position. These measures will help business firms penetrate and secure new foreign markets and provide the follow-on services to expand their position in these markets.

I urge the Congress to take prompt action on these requests.

The threat posed by our balance of payments deficit is immediate and serious and requires concerted action.

We have been moving in a number of ways to counter that threat and to carry out the program I announced on January 1, 1968.1

1 See Item 2.

The proposals in this letter to increase our exports are part of a national balance of payments strategy.

We have already acted to:

--Restrain the flow of direct investment funds abroad, and foreign lending by banks and other financial institutions.

--Reduce the number of government personnel in overseas posts, curtail government travel abroad, and negotiate new arrangements to lessen the impact of military expenditures overseas.

--Initiate discussions with other countries on actions to improve our trade position.

--Launch a new program, in cooperation with private industry, to attract more foreign visitors to these shores. As part of this program, I have asked for a supplemental appropriation of $1.7 million to strengthen the U.S. Travel Service.

--Remove the outmoded and unnecessary gold cover, in legislation which I signed yesterday.2

2 Public Law 90-269, 82 Stat. 50.

--Reach an agreement with our six active gold pool partners to halt speculative attacks on gold reserves.

Further measures await Congressional action.

One is the elimination of obsolete and burdensome visa requirements which now discourage foreign travelers from visiting our land.

Another is legislation to reduce the expenditures of Americans traveling abroad.

Finally, there is the anti-inflation tax--the most critical measure of all. This tax--one penny on every dollar earned--is the best investment Americans can make for fiscal responsibility at home and for a strong economic position abroad.

The nations of the world look to us now for economic leadership. The fabric of international cooperation upon which the world's postwar prosperity has been built is now threatened. If that fabric is torn apart, the consequences will not be confined to foreign countries--but will touch every American. We must not let this happen. Prompt enactment of the tax bill will be clear and convincing proof of our leadership and an exercise of our responsibility.

The hour is late. The need is urgent.

I call upon the Congress to act--now.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

A bill broadening the authority of the Export-Import Bank was approved by the President on July 7, 1968 (see Item 377).

The Export Expansion Advisory Committee was established on July 31, 1968 (see Item 422).

On March 27, 1968, the President signed Proclamation 3837 "World Trade Week, 1968" (4 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 583; 33 F.R. 5079; 3 CFR, 1968 Comp., p. 32).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Urging Actions To Increase American Exports. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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