What is the History of Fast Track?

For over 60 years, the Congress and the President have recognized that the negotiations and implementation of trade agreements require special cooperation. In the aftermath of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 and the Depression, both the Congress and the President recognized that only by working closely together could trade barriers be torn down and markets opened to U.S. goods. This new attitude was first reflected in the Reciprocal Trade Agreements of 1934, and has remained part of U.S. trade law ever since.

In recent years, as tariffs became less of an obstacle to trade, and as many of our trading partners sought to protect their domestic markets by erecting non-tariff barriers, the scope of trade negotiations broadened. The Ford Administration and Congress created fast track to accommodate this broader trade agenda. It was first engaged in the Trade Act of 1974 to deal with the Tokyo Round negotiations called for in the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). Fast track procedures for approving trade agreements have been renewed by Congress in 1979, 1984, 1988, 1991 and most recently in 1993. As a result, presidents have had fast track negotiating authority continuously from January 1975 until April 1994, with a brief hiatus for eight months in 1988.

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