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Williamsburg summit: basic accord on world economy

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The Williamsburg summit of the West's most powerful leaders slips into history as a blend of broad agreement on principles, discord on particulars, and uncertainty about the future.

This mixed result was the most that could be expected from two presidents, four prime ministers, and a chancellor who came with widely differing perspectives to this elegantly restored colonial capital of Virginia.

Binding them together was deep concern over the millions of their peoples who cannot find jobs, including a great many young people just out of school.

Only in Japan, with an official unemployment rate under 3 percent, is the problem less acute. For the other six participants at Williamsburg - the United States, Canada, Britain, France, West Germany, and Italy - the jobless rate exceeds or hovers at 10 percent.

This produced agreement on an overall goal of economic growth among the seven. This may sound unexceptionable, but in fact it represents a departure from the emphasis at recent summits on controlling inflation.

Now the issue is jobs, though the leaders stressed the need to guard against a resurgence of inflation as a result of economic growth.

In France and Italy inflation remains a problem and recovery has scarcely begun. For the rest, said US Treasury Secretary Donald T. Regan, there is a ''generally upbeat report'' on economic recovery, led by the United States.

Clearly troubling to allied leaders are the enormous debt problems of developing countries, carrying with it the possibility that default by one or more major debtors could shake the world banking system. This led the seven participants to stress the critical importance of expanding world trade and resisting protectionist pressures in industrialized lands.

Debtor nations, it was agreed, must be allowed to export their products to rich industrialized countries or their debt problems will grow worse, threatening calamity for all.

Yet a flood of goods made by cheaper labor in the third world is exactly what many industries in the US and Europe, both management and workers, demand to be protected from.

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