U.S. reviewing compliance with trade pacts

April 15, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration is comprehensively reviewing whether Japan and other countries have complied with trade agreements with the United States and is prepared to take unilateral action to ensure compliance, Mickey Kantor, the U.S. trade representative, said yesterday.

Mr. Kantor discussed the review on the eve of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's scheduled arrival in Washington for talks with President Clinton. Trade is expected to be a major issue in the talks.

The trade representative said he had told his subordinates to have the results of the review on his desk "by the close of business" today. The secret review began soon after he took office.

Mr. Kantor also said Japan engaged in some unfair trade practices and did not always follow through on its promises, but he refused to be specific.

By law, Mr. Kantor can demand that other countries comply with previous trade agreements and impose sanctions if they refuse.

Acting under the 1974 Trade Act, Carla A. Hills, Mr. Kantor's predecessor, intervened last year in a farm trade dispute, threatening 200 percent taxes on imports of European white wines to force the European Community to reduce soybean and rapeseed subsidies.

Mr. Kantor, who speaks strongly of the need to help blue-collar workers hurt by imports, has emerged as the administration's strongest advocate of aggressive trade actions. But he has encountered considerable resistance at the Treasury Department, the National Economic Council and the National Security Council, all of which participate in the interagency trade process.

Mr. Kantor said yesterday afternoon he was "stunned" to find when he took office that the government did not have legal cases under way against any country for failure to comply with previous agreements.

"My question was, 'You mean to tell me there's not one country in the world violating any aspect of a trade agreement in a substantial way?' and of course the answer was, 'Of course that's not correct,' " Mr. Kantor said.

He also said yesterday that business practices in several sectors of the Japanese economy violated a 1988 amendment to the 1974 Trade Act. That provision, which expired in 1990, requires his agency to identify unfair trade practices and either negotiate their elimination or impose trade sanctions.

Mr. Clinton said during last year's campaign that he would push to renew the provision, and Mr. Kantor reaffirmed yesterday the administration's commitment to reviving it.

Responding yesterday to Mr. Kantor's remarks, Seiichiro Noboru, the economics minister at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, said, "It is not for the United States to determine that the trade practices of Japan or any other country are illegal."

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