Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

EC Trade Official Blasts `Aggressive' US Stance on Eve of Bilateral Talks

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

EC Trade Official Blasts `Aggressive' US Stance on Eve of Bilateral Talks

Article excerpt

CLINTON administration officials will hold their first round of bilateral talks with the European Community this morning in Washington.

Today and tomorrow, the EC's Commissioner for External Economic Affairs, Sir Leon Brittan, will meet with United States Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, and chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers Laura D'Andrea Tyson.

While EC officials note the session is, in part, designed for new colleagues to get acquainted, the atmosphere is likely to be strained.

Sir Leon's visit comes at a time of rising trade tensions, and directly in the wake of two US decisions to take tough action against the EC for violating anti-dumping laws and committing unfair government and business procurement practices.

First, as a counter to rampant dumping practices, the Commerce Department slapped tariffs on steel produced in 19 countries, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the EC.

Second, the US plans to retaliate against EC policies that have allowed preferential purchasing of goods produced by EC-based companies over foreign (US) competitors in telecommunications, power generation, and transportation equipment.

And European automobile manufacturers are worried about possible US efforts to limit the US market for Asian-and-European-manufactured vehicles.

Sir Leon blasts the US posture toward Europe and other trade partners as "aggressive." He says it is "particularly unfortunate and inopportune at the beginning of a new US administration," and works against the resolution of the much-disputed General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Urgent concerns

Sir Leon has said he intends to raise these concerns "as a matter or urgency" with US officials.

A senior White House official says the idea that Clinton policymakers are assuming a more aggressive stand than the Bush team is unfounded. "There are no major changes in this stand."

Indeed, US Commerce and trade officials contend that by deciding to impose added duties on roughly $1 billion worth of European steel exports and prohibit awards of US federal contracts for EC goods and services, they are carrying through action that was well under way before the transfer of power from President Bush to President Clinton. …

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