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GOP Criticizes Trade Bill; Kerrey Says He Likely Won’t Support It

December 22, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Democratic bill aimed at curbing Japanese competition with the U.S. auto industry drew strong Republican criticism Sunday, and one Democratic presidential hopeful said he probably won’t support it.

Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., asked in a television interview whether he backed the legislation proposed by House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., and others, replied: ″Probably not.″

″I clearly support action that says to the Japanese: We’ve got to give you an incentive to do much more than just talk,″ Kerrey said. ″My own view toward trade is that our goal should be overall balance.″

However, he said, ″there will be times we will be out of balance with some nations.″

Kerrey, one of six major candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, was interviewed on CBS-TV’s ″Face the Nation.″

Gephardt and five Michigan Democrats introduced legislation last week to impose sanctions that would, in effect, shut out Japanese cars unless Japan eliminates its $41 billion trade deficit with the United States in five years.

The action came after General Motors announced it would close some of its plants and lay off 75,000 workers.

″I think it’s appalling to watch some of the Democratic leaders in effect suggest a trade war,″ Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said on ABC’s ″This Week with David Brinkley.″

″It’s a pattern for world depression. It makes no sense and I think it’s very dangerous,″ Gingrich said.

Gephardt, appearing on NBC’s ″Meet the Press,″ defended his bill against critics who he said ″continually put the focus on us - our actions, our protectionism.″

″I’m against protectionism in other countries, and this bill is designed to get, finally, access to that market,″ he said. ″I do not want to protect our market against real competition.″

But because of unfair Japanese trade practices, Gephardt said, ″we can’t get to that real, fair competition. That’s what the bill’s designed to do.″

Rep. David Bonior of Michigan, the Democratic whip in the House and a co- sponsor of the legislation, was interviewed on CNN’s ″Newsmaker Sunday.″

″We are not protectionist,″ he said. ″We’re for fair trade. We’re for free trade.″

But Bonior said the proposed bill is only ″part of the solution.″ In the longer run, he said, steps need to be taken to make the United States more competitive.

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, interviewed on the Brinkley program, agreed that such a program is needed. But, said Clinton, another contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, ″let’s be clear about why (GM is) laying them off.″

″Their market share has dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent, and the American people stopped buying their cars because ... they spent $8 billion buying other companies instead of reinvesting it in good, less expensive, more efficient cars in America.

″I’m sick and tired of all this blame being thrown around and nobody has a plan,″ Clinton said.

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