Republican Tariff Policy

May 11, 1936

Report Outline
Tariff Reciprocity and the Republican Platform
The Tariff in Republican Intra-Party Relations
Attitude of Republican Party on Tariff Reciprocity
Tariff Views of Republican Presidential Candidates

Tariff Reciprocity and the Republican Platform

Amild Sensation was created in political circles last month when Robert Lincoln O'Brien, chairman of the United States Tariff Commission, announced his intention of attending the Republican National Convention to urge adoption of a platform plank in effect endorsing the reciprocal tariff policy of the Roosevelt administration. The plank proposed by O'Brien on April 10 formally extolled the traditional Republican principle of protection, but in other respects it conformed closely with the tariff and foreign-trade views vigorously championed during the last three years by Secretary of State Hull and Secretary of Agriculture Wallace. The chairman of the Tariff Commission, a Massachusetts Republican, was appointed by President Hoover late in 1931 to fill the unexpired term of Henry P. Fletcher, now head of the Republican National Committee. That term ends on June 16, 1936.

Republicans in Congress exhibited strong opposition to the O'Brien proposal. Senator Steiwer of Oregon, who is to make the keynote address at the Cleveland convention., said such a suggestion could not be considered. Contending that “the 1934 trade-treaty act is unconstitutional and its administration contrary to American interest,” he asserted that “the Republican platform should declare for immediate repeal of the law under which the administration is surrendering American markets to foreign producers.” Senator Vandenberg of Michigan, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, voiced “substantial disagreement” with the point of view of the chairman of the Tariff Commission. Other Republican members of Congress expressed emphatic disapproval. O'Brien nevertheless indicated that he would not be deterred from making a fight for his plan.

New Trade Treaties and Protection of Farm Products

Stressing the point that “other nations can only take our exports if they are enabled to sell us something of theirs,” and observing that “many of our great agricultural industries, such as cotton, pork products, tobacco, wheat, absolutely depend upon export markets,” the proposed O'Brien plank declared that “no protective tariff, however high its rates, can secure to our producers these necessary outlets.” It insisted that maintenance of foreign markets, constituting the most effective, if not the only, form of protection for the farmer, would be promoted by continuance and expansion of the tariff-bargaining program already initiated.

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