US, EC lower guns in farm trade war
This week United States and European Community officials began talking as if a settlement of their war over trade in farm products was in sight. ''There's a good chance an agreement can be reached,'' an EC official said after the round of talks aimed at easing the transatlantic row. US officials were also optimistic.
At the very least, European officials now expect the Reagan administration to hold its fire - to refrain from selling surplus farm products to traditional EC markets at subsidized prices - until the details of a peace treaty can be worked out.
The US says European price supports and export subsidies enable EC exporters to sell to traditional US markets, primarily in the third world. The EC says the systems are legal and that the US also subsidizes farm production.
The US also has threatened to launch a ''subsidies war'' with Europe unless the EC begins to dismantle its ''common agricultural policy.'' Some say the US fired the first shot in January, selling flour to Egypt, a traditional European market, at subsidized prices. Officials expect that an agreement, even if informal, will be hammered out soon and that it will include: a US-Europe plan for sharing the burden of stockpiling surplus farm production, an EC pledge to reduce its level of export subsidies, and a promise by both parties to stay out of each others' traditional export markets. Already, the EC has reduced some of the heat by agreeing to double wheat stocks this year (rather than selling) and to make dairy farmers partly responsible for the costs of unloading surpluses. The US has a program to encourage farmers to leave some land idle.