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Public Papers - 1991 - December

Statement on Signing the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1991

1991-12-19

Today I have signed into law H.R. 1776, the ``Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1991,'' notwithstanding reservations about several of its provisions.

Section 37 purports to require the Secretaries of Transportation and State to undertake discussions with the Canadian Government regarding alternatives to improve commercial vessel traffic safety. The Constitution vests the authority to conduct U.S. foreign policy, including negotiations with other nations, in the President. Consistent with my responsibility under the Constitution for the conduct of negotiations, I will construe that provision to be precatory rather than mandatory.

Section 33 authorizes the Coast Guard to investigate casualties involving foreign vessels in international waters under certain circumstances. Customary international law would preclude assertion of jurisdiction by any but the flag state of the vessel involved in the casualty. I can envision virtually no circumstances under which it would be necessary for the Coast Guard to conduct a unilateral investigation contrary to customary international law.

Section 2(b)(2) prevents the Department of Transportation from procuring certain items from foreign sources where it is to the Government's advantage to do so. Such provisions are counter to the Administration's trade policy. They not only constrain the Federal Government in its efforts to best utilize its resources, but encourage foreign governments to erect or retain similar barriers against American goods.

Finally, several provisions mandate that surplus Federal property be transferred to specific entities. The General Services Administration has issued regulations under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 designed to assure that all competing uses are fairly considered in disposing of surplus Federal property. Allowing these regulations to work would be more likely to assure that surplus Federal property is disposed of in a manner that best serves the interests of the Government and the public.

George Bush

The White House,

December 19, 1991.

Note: H.R. 1776, approved December 19, was assigned Public Law No. 102 - 241.

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