Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Proposing a Reduction in the Duty-Free Allowance for Returning American Travelers
Dear Mr. Speaker:
In my message of February 6, 1961, I said that the United States faces a balance of payments deficit which is a matter of concern to us and to the whole free world. In order to meet our international responsibilities, to properly formulate domestic economic policies, and to efficiently conduct our economic affairs, we must take into account our balance of payments.
I propose that we strengthen our total position and help insure that our gold reserves are employed effectively to facilitate the commerce of the free nations and to protect the stability of their currencies by returning to the historic basic duty-free allowance of $100 allowed returning American travelers.
The $100 tariff exemption dates back to 1897. After World War II, however, foreign countries faced a dollar shortage and, as one measure to ease this shortage, Congress increased the tariff exemption by $300 in 1948 and by $100 in 1949, bringing the total exemption to $500. However, in the light of the existing balance of payments problem, this more liberal customs exemption, designed to encourage American expenditures abroad, is not presently warranted. Accordingly, the customs exemption should be returned to the traditional amount.
The attached draft of legislation would carry out this recommendation by providing for a return to the $100 duty-free allowance for a four-year period. This proposal would meet the existing situation, and the four-year terminal date would provide an appropriate opportunity for a reappraisal of the measure in the light of the balance of payments position in the future. I urge that Congress give favorable consideration to its prompt enactment.
Very truly yours,
JOHN F. KENNEDY
Note: On August 10 the President approved an amendment to the Tariff Act of 1930 providing for a reduction in duty-free allowance for returning American travelers (Public Law 87-132, 75 Stat. 335).
The draft bill was released with the President's letter.
John F. Kennedy, Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Proposing a Reduction in the Duty-Free Allowance for Returning American Travelers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235968