Reciprocal Tariff Act

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The Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (enacted June 12, 1934, ch. 474, 48 Stat. 943, 19 U.S.C. § 1351) provided for the negotiation of tariff agreements between the United States and separate nations, particularly Latin American countries.[1] The Act served as an institutional reform intended to authorize the president to negotiate with foreign nations to reduce tariffs in return for reciprocal reductions in tariffs in the United States. It resulted in a reduction of duties.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was authorized by the Act for a fixed period of time to negotiate on bilateral basis with other countries and then implement reductions in tariffs (up to 50% of existing tariffs) in exchange for compensating tariff reductions by the partner trading country. Roosevelt was also instructed to maximize market access abroad without jeopardizing domestic industry, and reduce tariffs only as necessary to promote exports in accord with the "needs of various branches of American production." A most favored nation clause was also included.

The Act was a response to the Hawley-Smoot tariff bill, which showed that Congress was unable to create a coherent, non-biased trade policy. It was used to negotiate tariff-reduction agreements with Canada, Argentina, Uruguay and Great Britain, among others. Many of its provisions were prototypes of the principal-supplier rules that formed a major part of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) after 1945.


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