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Europe presses to bar products US rejects

With little fanfare but great determination, pressure is building in Western Europe for legislation to ban imports of American-made products ruled unfit for consumption in the United States.

Officials say the measures being considered could have important consequences for US companies.

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A resolution approved April 14 by the European Parliament calls on the European Community to ''speed up'' negotiations with the US government to reach an agreement on American products exported to Western Europe.

A growing number of West European members of Parliament and consumer groups are concerned over moves by the Reagan administration to relax legislation regulating the undesirable products.

Cited as the most striking example is President Reagan's repeal of an executive order issued under the Carter administration that placed strict controls on such product exports. Mr. Reagan said the order was ''inconvenient and costly for the public and private sectors.''

The consumer movement in Western Europe has lent its support to the parliamentary action, saying the problem has become more acute since the Reagan decision.

''We've formed a transatlantic consumer 'Interpol' to gather data on the problem, to find out precisely what dangerous products are being exported to which European countries,'' says Yves Domzalski of the Brussels-based European Bureau of Consumers' Unions, which joins consumer organizations in the 10 EC countries. He says that although it is still impossible to ''quantify'' the problem in its entirety, individual examples are abundant, including the US-made drug Opren.

Consumer organizations have claimed that the drug caused the death of 67 elderly people in Britain - even though it has been banned in the US for more than a year.

Vera Squarcialupi, an Italian member of the European Parliament who wrote a report to accompany the Parliament's resolution, argues that existing EC legislation should be more strictly enforced, pointing out that a 1979 EC directive allows EC countries to ''provisionally prohibit the sale'' of substances that constitute ''a hazard for man or the environment.''

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So far, however, policymakers at the EC Commission - the Community's law-writing body - have remained cool to the grass-roots rumblings over the issue.

The EC's environmental affairs commissioner, Karl-Heinz Narjes, while acknowledging the Reagan administration has eased restrictions on the export of dangerous substances, has said the moves ''do not endanger the life or health of Community citizens.''

No new EC legislation is needed, he says, adding that the marketing of such substances in the EC is ''stringently controlled (by) a set of Community regulations aimed at protecting public health while preserving trade.''

Politicians and consumer groups, however, remain angry and promise to keep up the pressure.

''Whatever the EC bureaucrats say about the legislation,'' barks one member of the European Parliament, ''thousands of tons of pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other chemical products are exported to the Community every year even though those same products are held to be unfit for consumption in the US under US legislation.''

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