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US firms edgy over EC bid for corporate forthrightness

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US companies are opposed to a European Community proposal requiring multinational corporations to keep their Western European employees abreast of major company decisions and issues.

In recent weeks that opposition has stiffened, despite attempts to ease growing transatlantic tension over the matter.

A trip to the US in February by EC Social Affairs Commissioner Ivor Richard, the man responsible for the so-called Vredeling Proposal, appears to have done little to calm industry fears that the measure, if approved by the 10 EC governments, would be detrimental to US companies with subsidiaries in the Community.

''If anything, concern over the proposal is hardening,'' said Stephen Cooney, director for international investment at the Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers, one of four US industry organizations that met with the EC.

To the applause of businesses, Mr. Richard told the European Parliament in November that he would redraft the text, taking the Parliament's recommendations into account. The final version of the proposal, he said, would be ready by the end of March after consultations with industry on both sides of the Atlantic and with labor in Western Europe. EC officials now say the yet-to-be-released final text is expected to be discussed by EC social affairs ministers at their next formal meeting in June.

During Commissioner Richard's week-long visit to Washington and New York, Mr. Cooney recalled in a telephone interview, ''We tried to explain to him that this measure would be a disincentive to investment. It would clearly not encourage US investment in Western Europe.''

A hastily prepared visit to Brussels earlier this month (march) by senior representatives of the US business community also failed to heal the growing split between the EC and US business, officials said. The representatives had flown here at the invitation of Commissioner Richard - ''to provide a final input into his thinking'' - but saw little, if any, change in his approach to the issue, according to participants in the meeting.

There had been some hope among EC officials that the US business community - which has waged an intensive and somewhat successful lobbying campaign against the Vredeling Proposal since it was first introduced more than two years ago - would soften its stance following the European Parliament's vote last October recommending several important pro-business changes in the original text.

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