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Action on Trade from LWV National Office

On September 12 two members of the National Board called on Wilbur Mills (D., Ark.), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to deliver a letter from Mrs. Phillips, President of the LWV of the U.S., protesting a bill, H.R. 2513, which "whittles away at U.S. trade policy." This bill, passed by the House and the Senate and now in Conference, would add a new provision to the section of the Tariff Act of 1930 which provides for marking imported articles with the country of their origin. Under the present law, the Secretary of the Treasury can make exceptions to the marking provision in instances when marking each article would create a real burden on foreign commerce. (Buttons, screws, fruits, nails, nuts, and sawed lumber are among the "excepted articles," but the country-of-origin marking is still required on the containers in which these articles arrive in the U.S.) Under H.R. 2513, each time imported articles which have not been individually marked are repackaged for sale in this country, the package must bear the country-of-origin label and a warning to the effect that if the next repackager omits this information he is subject to penalties at law. Opponents of H.R. 2513 say that its purpose is to make it bothersome to import the presently "excepted articles", not to enlighten the U.S. consumer as to their origin.

H.R. 2513 passed the House on February 26 and the Senate on July 18. The Senate (but not the House) version included an amendment making the provisions of the bill apply especially to sawed lumber, most of which comes from Canada. Canada has protested and it is quite likely that, if the bill becomes law, she may take some kind of retaliatory action. Mrs. Phillips wrote to Mr. Mills, who will head the house conferees on the bill, that H.R. 2513 "will place the ultimate consumer at an unfair disadvantage" since the procedures it would require would add to the cost of marketing and would be passed along to the final purchaser. She continued "(H.R. 2513) will have a very real impact on our international relations and represents a decided threat to our friendly relations with Canada. The Senate version of the bill, she wrote, "would make it more difficult for our representatives at the forthcoming 'Kennedy Round' of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations to convince others at the bargaining table of our good intentions to follow through on the promise of better trading relations expressed in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. This is no time, it seems to us, to add to the difficulties they will almost certainly have in the new negotiations." She concluded her letter by writing "We hope that H.R. 2513 will not emerge from Conference."

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