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Public Papers - 1991 - December

Statement on Signing Legislation on Trade and Unemployment Benefits

1991-12-04

Today I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 1724. This legislation authorizes the President to terminate the application of Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974 to the Republic of Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. It would permit the President to accord permanent most-favored-nation (MFN) status and to normalize our relations in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade with these countries. The passage of this legislation is a tribute to the enormous progress made in both countries toward building free markets and stable democracy on the ruins of Communist rule, and a further important step on their way to full integration into the global market. It also serves to reaffirm America's sustained commitment to Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic as they continue their historic and unprecedented democratic transformations.

I am also gratified that this legislation removes Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from the provisions of Title IV of the Trade Act and grants MFN status to these countries. Title IV had only applied to the Baltic nations because of their forced incorporation into the Soviet Union. Now that they have regained their independence, it is appropriate to terminate application of Title IV. MFN status will help normalize our economic relations with these nations and assist them as they are integrated into the world economy.

H.R. 1724 includes the ``Andean Trade Preference Act of 1991,'' which implements an important initiative I requested last year. This legislation, which authorizes the President to provide duty-free treatment to products from Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, will expand economic alternatives for these countries and help halt the production, processing, and shipment of illegal drugs. It also will help cement our trade relationship with these Andean nations and show our commitment to economic growth through trade liberalization. I note, however, that a provision of this Act purports to specify the effect of a recommendation to me by the Secretary of Agriculture. I will interpret this provision in a manner consistent with my constitutional authority to supervise the operation of the unitary executive branch.

H.R. 1724 repeals the statutory prohibition on imports of gold coins from the Soviet Union. The lifting of the ban on imports represents another important step in the normalization of our economic relationship with the Soviet Union and fulfills an obligation related to the U.S.-Soviet Trade Agreement that I signed on June 1, 1990. Resumption of Soviet gold coin exports to the United States should help the Soviet Union and the republics earn hard currency.

H.R. 1724 includes the ``Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991.'' This Act is virtually identical to Title V of Public Law 102 - 138, which I signed into law on October 28, 1991. The only significant difference is the addition of import sanctions to the list of sanctions that are to be imposed and corresponding additions to the Presidential waiver provisions. Certain provisions of this legislation, however, raise concerns with respect to the President's control over negotiations with foreign governments and the possible disclosure of sensitive information. I will interpret these provisions in a manner consistent with my constitutional responsibility to conduct the foreign relations of the United States. The observations regarding Title V of Public Law 102 - 138 that I made upon signing that bill into law are equally applicable to the Act I am signing today.

The legislation contains modifications to the temporary extended unemployment benefits program that I signed into law on November 15. These modifications would extend this important assistance to an additional 200,000 jobless Americans while continuing to maintain the budget discipline that is essential to future economic and employment growth. It is my hope that the Congress will take additional action to ensure that the economy strengthens, thereby creating new employment opportunities.

George Bush

The White House,

December 4, 1991.

Note: H.R. 1724, approved December 4, was assigned Public Law No. 102 - 182.

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