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Bad Legislation

The House and Senate trade bills, and the conference bill being drawn from them, leave President Reagan no alternative to a veto.

The action of both houses of Congress has perpetuated a myth, that protectionism will be good for the nation and its workers, at the very moment when Americans must be tuning their economy for the new world competition that it faces. Yet these decisions in the two houses had the support of the leadership, both Republican and Democratic. But Californians can take satisfaction from the votes of their members of Congress. Both senators voted no, and in the House the Californians voted 26 to 18, with one absent, against the extreme measure.

The focus has been on textiles, already protected with barriers four times higher than average industrial tariffs, and the Senate has gone one step worse, adding shoes and copper to textiles. As Clayton Yeutter, the President’s trade representative, wrote in these pages, most members of Congress know that this legislation is “wrong and even dangerous.” But many apparently are willing to bow to pressures from the special interests that have mounted a campaign to persuade Americans that their job security depends on protectionism. That is wrong. Any job that depends on protectionism is not secure. But some representatives apparently think that it’s easier to bow to pressure than to explain a complex matter to the voters.

Government’s role is to be sure that there is fair competition, to act vigorously against unfair trade practices and to eliminate unreasonable barriers that make American exports less competitive. This is important business. America’s effectiveness in meeting the growing world competition will determine the nation’s prosperity.

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