THE American tariff bargaining program appears to be in a critical stage. In the two years following its inauguration in June 1934 it scored substantial accomplishments. American negotiators were successful in getting rid of some of the most serious hindrances to the expansion of American trade in foreign markets. Discriminations of long standing in French and Canadian tariffs were replaced by most-favored-nation treatment. In all, fourteen trade agreements were concluded including ones with such important commercial countries as Canada, Cuba, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.
In these new agreements the United States made its first real advance since 1913 in the direction of lower tariffs. To be sure, the steps taken were timid and hesitating; the breaches made in our massive tariff wall were not wide. But certain rates were actually reduced, notably those on sugar, whisky, cigar wrapper tobacco, lumber, linen goods, dyes, watches, cheese, and on one or two types of cotton goods. Continued free entry, during the life of the agreements, was assured for coffee, newsprint paper, wood pulp, pulpwood, bananas and cacao beans. Taken together, the fourteen agreements constituted an achievement in which Secretary Hull and his staff could take legitimate pride. And their significance far transcended the American scene. For they represented the only genuine and effective departure taken by any great nation away from the exaggerated protectionism of the postwar years.
But in the spring of 1936 the bargaining machinery seemed to stall. Since May 1936, when the agreement with France was signed, only two additional agreements have been concluded, those with Costa Rica and El Salvador.[i] Negotiations which had been undertaken with Italy and Spain have been given up. Two explanations for the slump are obvious: the Presidential campaign, which regularly halts constructive effort in foreign relations; and the fact that in June 1937 the new bargaining powers were to expire unless renewed by Congress.
In the past few months the trade agreement's program has given signs of renewed life. In February, Congress extended the President's bargaining
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