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US protectionism threatens '86 trade talks

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Growing protectionist pressures in the United States may be threatening new international trade talks set for early next year. ``I don't see how we could possibly succeed in holding a new [trade] round in such a climate,'' Willy de Clercq, the European Community's external-relations commissioner, said in a recent interview. ``What would be the meaning of a new round in a climate of unilateral protectionist action?''

The EC will have no choice, Mr. de Clercq says, but to retaliate against protectionist actions taken by the US: ``Even the most reluctant politician . . . will not be able to resist [taking retaliatory action].''

Earlier this month, senior officials from the world's principal trading nations and the EC were meeting in Geneva to lay the groundwork for a new round of international trade negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

The Reagan administration has pushed for the talks to begin early next year. While the 10 EC countries in principle support the idea of holding the discussions, they now worry that protectionism in the US could endanger their success. More than 200 trade bills, many protectionist in nature, are awaiting congressional action.

Of particular concern to many Europeans, de Clercq says, is the possible combined effect on exports to the US of a weaker dollar and new moves to protect US industries from foreign competition by cutting imports from Western Europe and other parts of the world.

``It would be the worst combination imaginable,'' the commissioner said. ``And it looks like it's going to happen.'' A weaker dollar would make European products relatively more expensive for US importers to buy than they are today.


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