Clapper: Reciprocity (3-9-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (March 9, 1943)

Clapper: Reciprocity

By Raymond Clapper

Washington –
Some Republicans in Congress are in favor of a truce to permit the reciprocal trade act to stand until after the war.

The present act expires June 30. Naturally the administration wants it extended. Repudiation of the policy now, of all times, would work serious damage to our international relations, it would handicap our officials severely in all diplomatic negotiations that must be carried on in connection with the war.

Those considerations appeal to some Republicans although the party has been almost unanimously against the trade agreements act. When the measure was first passed, only two Republicans in the House voted for it, and only five Republican Senators. On renewals, Republicans cast a unanimous vote against it once in the House and once in the Senate.

McNary willing to ‘play ball’

Senator McNary, the Republican leader of the Senate, has his own objections to the reciprocal trade policy, as it has been carried out by the present administration. But he doubts if this is the proper time to make a fight for its repeal or serious modification. He is suggesting to his fellow Senators that the act be extended until after the war. Senator McNary would make it clear that the Republicans have not abandoned their objections to the act but are only withholding them until a more appropriate time.

Somewhat the same view is taken by Rep. Clifford Hope of Kansas, the ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee. This is, as Mr. Hope says, a matter properly for the House Ways and Means Committee.

Hope’s attitude significant

But Mr. Hope’s personal attitude is significant because he comes from the heart of the farm belt where the opposition to the reciprocal program is strongest. He also has had a good deal to do with shaping Republican Party expressions on agricultural policy.

House Republicans are more aggressive in their opposition to the trade agreements act than the Republicans in the Senate. Nevertheless as Rep. Hope says, it is a poor time to raise the issue and no harm can be done by continuing the act during the war. Also, there is some suggestion in the House of providing, as has been done with some of the war legislation, that Congress could terminate the act at any time by concurrent resolution – that is by majority action of both Houses without the signature of the President.

Farsighted leaders want act

Republicans might not be willing to admit it, but I have a strong suspicion that some of the more farsighted among them are thinking that if the Republicans come into power in the 1944 elections, they just might want to keep the Reciprocal Trade Act. As a matter of self-interest, it is a most useful weapon for the government in breaking down trade restrictions against us by other nations.

Republicans might keep it as the Democrats kept the Hawley-Smoot tariff. The Democrats denounce the Hawley-Smoot Act as a monstrosity but they have never seriously tried to get rid of it, in fact, the administration finds this high tariff a useful reservoir from which to trade concessions under the reciprocal power.

Republicans are steadily broadening their outlook. For instance, Governor Stassen of Minnesota represents a new broader-gauge statesmanship that is finding voice also among numerous other younger Republicans. They know, as Governor Stassen says, that while we might not want to put all of our eggs in the international basket, we should place some of them there on the chance that they might hatch something better than recurring wars.

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