With the slowdown in the U.S. economy, U.S. high-tariff advocates have been creeping out of Washington woodwork like termites swarming in spring. Their target: the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, now up for a five-year extension. By tunneling out the heart of the act with amendments, they hope to convert it from a strong, proved instrument for gradually freeing and expanding world trade into a 1958 version of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act. which is often blamed for turning mild recession into a riproaring, worldwide depression.

Last week, thoroughly alarmed friends of the foreign-trade...

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