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Statement by the President Upon Signing the Trade Agreements Extension Act.

September 26, 1949

I HAVE today approved the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Extension Act of 1949, which extends until 1951 our trade agreement program, free of the crippling restrictions imposed on it in 1948 by the 80th Congress. Through this wise and farseeing legislation, the United States reaffirms its intention of pressing forward toward expanded world trade at a time when such action is most urgently needed.

In the first phase of our postwar foreign economic policy, we gave our primary attention to restoring the productive capacity of our friendly neighbors in the world community. In this task we have already gone a long way. But the process of postwar readjustment brought an inevitable growth of restrictive trade and financial measures throughout the world. We cannot permit these barriers to remain and thus stifle a progressive rise in standards of living throughout the world, which would provide our best insurance of a peaceful future.

As we have carried out temporary programs of financial assistance, we have increasingly sought adjustments tending to break down artificial trade barriers and to lead toward the reestablishment of expanding and competitive world trade, the permanent objective of our international commercial policy. We envisage a reestablishment of economic balance in the world which will permit our neighbors now receiving our assistance in securing needed imports to become self-supporting through a liberal expansion of the international exchange of goods in competitive world markets. Only in such a world economy can we foresee the maintenance of adequate and rising standards of living when our programs of financial assistance terminate.

Earlier this month, representatives of our Government came to agreement in Washington with British and Canadian representatives on certain courses of action which will be of considerable immediate assistance in easing international financial maladjustments. But it was recognized by all that further steps are needed to open the way for the sound expansion of international trade so essential to a lasting solution of basic international economic maladjustments. From the long-range standpoint, it is clear that only by a large expansion of our purchases of foreign goods will the needed readjustment in international economic relations be possible, on a basis consistent with a liberal world trading system, and the richer world it offers. We must reduce our own barriers, wherever possible, to permit our people the freest access to the foreign goods they may want to buy. The maintenance and the enlargement of our export markets are impossible without a substantial expansion of our imports. As the world's greatest creditor nation, it is our special responsibility to welcome imports.

Under the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, we negotiated and put into effect 2 years ago the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a comprehensive agreement by 23 countries for the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers. By this agreement, we made substantial reductions in our tariffs in return for commensurate tariff concessions by the other 22 countries. In the past several months the countries which are now parties to the general agreement have been negotiating with 10 additional countries at Annecy, France. The enactment of the Trade Agreements Extension Act of 1949 will make possible the early conclusion of these negotiations, and the accession of these additional countries to the general agreement. Thirty-three countries carrying on approximately 80 percent of the world's trade will then be parties to a mutual undertaking to reduce trade barriers and expand international commerce. Beyond completing the Annecy negotiations, I intend to use the authority given me by this legislation to proceed with negotiations under the general agreement to make it an even more effective document.

The trade agreements program has been carried forward by this Government since 1934 under authority of a series of temporary enactments. A year and a half ago, we completed, with representatives of over 50 other countries, a text of a permanent charter for an International Trade Organization, which will carry forward and elaborate the principles underlying the reciprocal trade program into a permanent world economic policy. I have placed the charter before the Congress and urged our adherence. Prompt action by the Congress to carry out this recommendation will constitute the firmest assurance to the world that the United States recognizes its position of world economic leadership, and is prepared to do its share in reestablishing world economic relations on a sound competitive basis for the mutual well-being of all peoples.

Note: The Trade Agreements Extension Act of 1949 is Public Law 307 (63 Stat. 697).

Harry S Truman, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Trade Agreements Extension Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230093

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