President Carter is expected to approve shortly a special subsidy program for the import-plagued shoe industry that is designed to help shoe makers modernize their production and marketing techniques.
The program, which one official estimates will cost between $100 million and $200 million over the next four years, will provide teams of experts to advise managers of shoe companies and financial assistance to help shoe makers invest in modern production equipment.
The special trade adjustment assistance program is part of a two-pronged Carter administration effort to help the American shoe industry to deal with imports.
The administration already has negotiated voluntary import quotas with South Korea and Taiwan-whose exports of cheap shoes to this country soared between 1974 and 1976. These countries have agreed to limit their exports to the United States to 155 million pairs in the year starting June 28. In 1976 they shipped 200 million pairs here, and the pace accelerated during the early months of 1977.
The plan recommended to the President early this week deals only with the problems of shoe manufacturers.
The same federal task force that devised the plan for shoe makers is wrestling with a broader revamping of overall trade adjustment assistance programs of the government. These programs are supposed to help companies, workers and communities hurt by imports to adjust to foreign competition.
Industry and labor consider adjustment assistance a farce, calling it essentially a farce, calling it essentially "funeral payments" to towns an industries already too far gone to be helped.
Government sources said the interagency task force, headed by Assistant Secretary of Commerce Sidney Harman, will have recommendations on refashioning the overall adjustment assistance program to the President in mid-July.
When President Carter rejected recommendations by the International Trade Commission that he impose sharply higher tariffs on shoe imports, he said he would try to negotiate voluntary limits on shoe exports from Taiwan and South Korea and also would develop a better program to help industries and workers hurt by imports.
Administration sources said any special problems of shoe workers and towns hurt by shoe imports would be dealt with under the general revisions in the adjustment assistance program. No programs like the one directed at shoe makers will be directed at shoe workers.
Administration sources said the government will provide teams of experts to shoe firms to help management of the companies identify and correct production problems, marketing mistakes and merchandising difficulties.
The teams of government-sponsored experts will come, in the main, from private consulting firms.
The plan hinges on the "ability and willingness of the shoe manufacturers to take advantage of cost-reducing innovations and to respond quickly to changes in styles," one official said yesterday.
The program assumes there will be an increase in production by shoe manufacturers, which should boost employment in the industry, reducing the need for a special program for shoe workers.
While shoe manufacturers were pleased with the quotas negotiated by Robert Strauss, the President's special trade representative, and Stephen Lande, his assistant, the industry is less excited about the trade adjustment assistance plans.
"It stands to reason," one official commented. "Adjustment assistance is never a fully acceptable alternative to import relief. It doesn't protect. It helps industry adjust to import competition, which has both monetary and psychological costs."
Shoe imports have grown markedly in the past few years and in 1976 accounted for 46 per cent of total U.S. sales.
Shoe manufacturers filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission late last year charging the industry had been hurt by imports. The trade commission, set up to administer the 1974 trade law, recommended that heavy imports be imposed on shoe exports.
But President Carter, who has been trying to balance protectionist pressures at home against possible retaliation by the nation's trading partners, instead opted for negotiations with the Taiwan and Korea - the countries which accounted for nearly all of the surge in shoe imports in recent years.
Carter took a similar approach on color televisions and rejected trade of voluntary quotas - called orderly marketing agreements.