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US-Egyptian trade alarms Europe

The growing and potentially dangerous dispute between the United States and the European Community over trade in farm products stayed just short of the boiling point this week.

EC foreign ministers meeting here agreed to words, not actions, reports Monitor contributor Gary Yerkey. Instead of retaliatory moves against the US for selling subsidized wheat flour to Egypt - a traditional European market - the ministers agreed to send a tough letter to US Secretary of State George Shultz. As one British diplomat put it, the letter says ''enough is enough.'' It is to be written this week and will be followed up by a great deal of pressure by EC trade negotiators, said Hans-Dietrich Genscher, West German foreign minister.

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Clearly worrying West European leaders here were unconfirmed reports that the US had signed another deal with Egypt - this time for thousands of tons of butter and cheese at below-market prices. Nearly 90 percent of Egypt's current butter needs are met by EC producers.

US officials, meanwhile, were breathing a collective sigh of relief that the EC diplomats had decided against action this week. ''A letter is always better than action,'' mused one US official here.

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