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After three ineffective years of bellyaching about spending, the Republican. Party is making an issue of Secretary Hull's plea for a renewal of the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act which goes out of existence in June, 1940. It is too bad that the Party should want to take a stand against one of the best pieces of legislation that the present administration has adopted.
The Act allows the President to change existing tariffs by as much as fifty per cent. Since 1934 scores of reciprocal trade treaties have been made which encourage foreign trade and still do as little harm as possible to interests within the country.
From an economic standpoint, the Republicans argue that certain interests like copper mining are hurt when the United States Government allows foreign products to enter. But everyone has known since the classical argument of John Stuart Mill that lowering tariffs raises the standard of living for the country as a whole. The copper, shoe, and champagne industries may be hurt; but the export industries such as wheat, cotton, and automobile industries are helped to a greater degree.
From a political standpoint, the Republicans think that they can organize the power of vested interests that are hurt by foreign competition and gain strength enough to lick Hull and his program and perhaps also the Democratic party next year. But the Republicans are going to have a hard time convincing farmers that high tariffs are good. To export their over-abundant farm products, the United States must import more, and many farmers understand this fact very clearly.
From an international standpoint, the Republicans argue that nations fearing war are going to become more and more self-sufficient at the expense of lowering their standards of living and losing what free enterprise they have left. Therefore our foreign trade will be destroyd in any case, they say. But it is obvious that we should do everything in our power to construct a system for holding and increasing our foreign trade. The reciprocal trade agreement is a powerful weapon in lowering the tariff barriers of other nations as well as our own.
Besides, there is no use taking a defeatist attitude like that of the Republicans when we can make great progress with South American countries towards free trade. Now is our chance to tear down tariff walls and make the Western Hemisphere strong, peaceful, and economically prosperous.
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