This is no time to send mixed signals when it comes to diplomacy and trade. The United States is forging a historic alliance to confront Iraqi aggression, but efforts in Washington to pass protectionist trade legislation are undermining our other international commitments. If Washington clings to parochial domestic interests, it risks the quid pro quo goodwill needed to loosen international restrictions that hurt U.S. trade abroad.
The House of Representatives is scheduled this week for a crucial vote on a textile bill that would significantly strengthen three decades of existing protectionist quotas and make them permanent. The Senate already has overwhelmingly passed a similar measure that would severely restrict imports of textiles, apparel and footwear each year. The Bush Administration opposes the bill.
The textile and apparel industries already are heavily protected by about 1,000 quotas established in 38 bilateral agreements negotiated under the international Multifiber Agreement. Two of those agreements involve Turkey and Egypt, countries adversely affected by economic sanctions against Iraq.
In letter to the House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, Secretary of State James A. Baker III expressed his concern that passage of the textile legislation "would compound the problems being faced by a number of countries which have stood with us in the (Persian) Gulf crisis despite the economic losses they have been incurring."