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Meanwhile, the White House is troubled that it can't do much about the rising tide of foreign-built autos. To set new limits on Japanese cars, President Carter would have to go to Congress to get new authority. That could start a squabble with consumer groups , who like the gas-stingy cars from abroad.

Carter had hoped the International Trade Commission would report its findings before Election Day on whether imports were a serious danger to Detroit. If the ITC saw a danger, the President would automatically be armed with authority to negotiate limits. But that report won't be out until after Nov. 4.m

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