Robert Strauss, President Carter's chief trade negotiator, declared yesterday that the administration has no pans for additional controversial "orderly marketing agreements" (OMAs) to restrict import into this country.
Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal, who originally opposed OMAs that have been signed with Asian countries to limit their sales here of shoes and color television sets, publicly has voiced a concern that tbey might spread to other industries.
But in an interview, Strauss, who heads the Office of Special Trade Representative, said: "I doubt that we will have another OMA for the rest of the year." He specifically ruled out the use of the device to protect American steel producers.
President Carter approved the use of the OMA technique as a substitute for more restrictive protectionist devices recommended by the International Trade Commission to cut the exports of cheap shoes from Taiwan and Korea from about 200 million pairs last year to about 150 million a year for four years.
A similar agreement was signed by the U.S. with Japan to limit the sale here of Japanese color TVs.
Blumenthal, along with Economic Council Chairman Charles L. Schultze, at first urged Carter to seek a "voluntary quota" in these cases rather than the more formal and binding OMA.
Blumenthal revealed in a separate interview that when Carter ruled in favor of Strauss' recommendation for the OMAS, Blumenthal urged the President to announce now that the shoe agreement would be reviewed within 18 month. In a decision never publicly announced, Carter last week ruled against Blumenthal's proposal.
Strauss argued that to announce now that the shoe deal would be reviewed - and hence possibly softened - might undercut the special trade representative in other negotiations, and even worsen existing protectionist pressures.
The debate on the OMAs illustrates philosophic and tactical differences among Carter's advisers, all of whom support in principle an open trade policy.
Blumenthal said that if the OMAs were used too freely, "it would be just as bad as quotas," and he "certainly would resist it." Despite Strauss' disclaimer of any intention to develop new OMAs, a White House source insists that the technique should be held available "if we had a situation where there was an exaggeratedly high increase (in imports) from a couple of countries, over a short period of time."
Blumenthal and Schultze, as two leading advisers to Carter, hold that limitations of any kind on exports add to inflationery pressures.
The Treasury Secretary, chief negotiator for the U.S. in the Kennedy Round of tariff reductions from 1962 to 1966, also said that while the administration's anti-protectionist policy is clearly defind in general terms, "We haven't got a strategy for implementing that policy."
Strauss said that "it's unfortunate" that there have been reports of "a sharp personal confrontation between me and Blumenthal." He flatly denied this is so. But he acknowledged that "Blumenthal and Schultze have a different goal to guard than I do.
"The primary responsibility they have is to review everything and say to the President: 'This could conceivably have a fractionaly impact on inflation in this country.'"
Strauss contends that the shoe and color TV OMAs dealt with specific problems "in as narrow a way as possible." If there were the threat of "an OMA every 60 days, I think ther'd be something to worry about," he added.
Blumenthal sees the need to hold the line wherever possible against a rising tide of protectionism here and abroad. "I think the situation is more troublesome at the moment than it has been for some times as you look around the world," he said.