American Concerns of Protectionist Europe Justified

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Will a Western Europe without internal trade barriers mean a more open market for the United States and other countries?

Or will this Europe, to be created by the end of 1992, become ``Fortress Europe'': an inward-looking bloc that will accelerate a global trend toward regional trading blocs?

Otto Lambsdorff, the head of West Germany's Free Democratic Party, a partner in Helmut Kohl's coalition government, strongly supports a Europe that will be open to the rest of the world.

But in an interview in New York, he warned that nationalistic and protectionist pressures remain strong in some European countries, especially in France and Italy.

Indeed, the sharp increase in support for the right-wing and highly nationalistic Republicans in the West Berlin election on Jan. 29 raised worries about the strength of the Kohl government.

Here to meet with members of the Bush administration, Lambsdorff said American concerns about a protectionist single European market ``seem justified'' by the recent trade dispute over the European Community's ban on imports of American hormone-treated beef.

The United States has said it will retaliate by excluding $100 million worth of European food exports.

In his view, the dispute could be resolved by ``early, sensible'' negotiations and posed no serious threat to American-European trade relations.

Nevertheless, he deplored the European action for ``degrading the idea of European integration in the eyes of our trading partners.''

He warned that some European countries, and industries, would still work to prevent the single market from being open to trade from other countries.

They have been able to do so in the past under Article 115 of the European Economic Community treaty, which permits individual countries to limit trade in goods from nations outside the bloc.

``So far, mainly the French and the Italians have used this option with a view to protecting their auto industries,'' he said.

At present, the Italians limit Japanese auto imports to 2,000 a year. Since the proposed agreement for the single European market would rule out national import restrictions on goods from outside the bloc, the protectionists are now proposing that national import quotas be replaced by European Community quotas.

``The Federal German government,'' he said, ``strongly rejects such an approach.''

Lambsdorff stressed that movement toward ``Europe 1992'' needed to be matched by success in the multilateral Uruguay Round of trade negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

He maintained that the current trade negotiations round was aiming ``at precisely what we are seeking on a regional basis in the E. …