The Clinton Administration asked an elite group of business leaders Friday for help in winning congressional passage of a global trade agreement.
Consider what the pact "will do for your bottom line," Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen told 96 of the nation's foremost executives. The group is having its twice-yearly meeting in this colonial resort community.
"I think it's incumbent on those who will benefit to speak up and make it clear" they support passage of the world trade agreement negotiated by more than 100 countries last December in Geneva, Bentsen said.
The pact, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, has run into trouble on Capitol Hill because of the need for tax increases and spending cuts to make up for an estimated $14 billion in lost tariff revenue over the first five years of the agreement.
"There's a great deal at stake here," Bentsen told the Business Council. "Think about what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose. The GATT deal opens markets for the products in which the United States is the most competitive."
Bentsen also did some crowing about the domestic economy on a day when the government announced reassuring inflation figures. Consumer prices edged down 0.1% in April, helping to push the country's underlying inflation rate for the past 12 months to its lowest level in 28 years.
In noting an earlier report that unemployment is down to 6.4%, Bentsen said: "Of course, as soon as we see growth, we begin to worry about inflation. But I'll take success over the doldrums any day."
Bentsen said he saw little cause to worry about inflation.
"We're encouraged by what we see in the numbers," he said.