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The Interdepartmental Committee on Trade Agreements today issued notice of the intention of the United States Government to participate, under the authority of the Trade Agreements Act as amended and extended, in limited trade agreement negotiations with the Government of Cuba.
In these negotiations, the United States will give consideration to possible tariff concessions on certain types of unmanufactured tobacco (see page 6) in exchange for concessions by Cuba. The listed types of tobacco are imported into the United States, chiefly from Cuba, for use in the manufacture of cigars.
The negotiations will supplement those conducted at Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this year in which the United States, Cuba, and twenty other contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade participated, and any resulting exchange of tariff concessions will be embodied in the respective schedules of the United States and Cuba supplemental to their present schedules to the General Agreement.
In the case of most of the tobacco items listed, imports into the United States which are the product of Cuba are now entitled to preferentially lower rates of duty than are applied to like products of other foreign countries. Any reduction in a rate applicable to the product of Cuba will apply to the Cuban product exclusively but, in order to prevent increases in margins of preference, such a reduction may involve a reduction also in the rate applicable to the same type of tobacco which is the product of other countries.
Tariff concessions by the United States will be considered within the limitation of the authority available to the President under the Trade Agreements Act as amended by the Trade Agreements Extension Act of 1955. The pertinent part of the legislation provides that rates might be reduced by 15 percent below the January 1, 1955 rates by stages of 5 percent a year over a three-year period, but that no stage or reduction may be made effective after June 30, 1958. Consequently there remains authority to reduce rates by only 10 percent below the January 1, 1955 rate, in two annual stages of five percent each.
In accordance with past practice and the requirements of trade agreements legislation, the Committee's notice sets in motion preparations for the negotiations, including opportunity for presentation by interested persons of both written and oral views on possible concessions which may be granted or obtained, and the determination of "peril points" by the
United States Tariff Commission on all products on which the United States will consider granting concessions.
The Comittee for Reciprocity Information, which will receive the views of interested persons concerning any aspect of the proposed negotiations, has announced that its hearings will open on November 14, 1956. Applications for oral presentation of views and information should be presented to the Committee not later than 12 noon, November 8, 1956. Persons desiring to be heard should also submit written briefs or statements to the Committee by 12 noon, November 8, 1956. Only those persons will be heard who have presented written briefs or statements and have filed applications to be heard by the dates indicated. Details concerning the submission of briefs and applications to be heard are contained in the Committee's notice.
The members of the Committee for Reciprocity Information and the Committee on Trade Agreements are the same. They include a member of the United States Tariff Commission and representatives from the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, and Interior, and the International Cooperation Administration.
Domestic producers, importers and other interested persons are invited to present to the Committee for Reciprocity Information views and all possible pertinent information about products on the published list. All views and information will be carefully considered in deciding whether or not a concession should be offered by the United States on each product. Consideration will also be given to all relevant information submitted to the Committee for Reciprocity Information in connection with its hearings in October 1955 and January 1956 in preparation for the Geneva tariff negotiations. Accordingly, persons who presented information and views at those hearings and who do not desire to modify or supplement such material, need not--but may if they wish--repeat their written or oral submissions.
The United States Tariff Commission also announced today that it will hold public hearings beginning November 14, 1956 in connection with its "peril point" investigation, as required by section 3 (a) of the Trade Agreements Extension Act of 1951, on the extent to which United States concessions on listed products may be made in the negotiations without causing or threatening serious injury to a domestic industry producing like or directly competitive products. Copies of the notice may be obtained from the Commission. Views and information received by the Tariff Commission in its hearings referred to above will be made available to the Committee for Reciprocity Information for consideration by the Interdepartmental Committee on Trade Agreements. Persons who appear before the Tariff Commission need not-but may if they wish--, also appear before the Committee for Reciprocity Information,