The United States yesterday asked its trading partners to remove or reduce trade restrictions on more than 1,000 products, most of them agricultural commodities.
The European Economic Community and Japan also put forward their requests for trade barrier concessions at the 97-nation trade talks in Geneva where the Nordic countries and Japan are expected to make their requests within a few days.
The specific requests for changes - covering both tariff and non-tariff barriers on agricultural products and non-traffis barriers only for industrial products - are designed to get the three-year-old trade talks off center and moving on substantive issues.
The requests put forward yesterday deal with specific trade barriers in specific countries that will not be covered under more general formulas on tariff and non-tariff trade barriers.
Alan Wolff, deputy special trade representative, told reporters that by Dec. 15 five draft codes to deal with non-tariff barriers should be on the negotiating table in Geneva. Those general codes will deal with subsidies, government procurement, standards, customs valuation and safeguards government can devise to protect domestic industries threatened by foreign competition.
Last month the inudstrial countries agreed to look to reducing their industrial tariffs by a weighted average of 44 per cent in a general tariff formula proposed by the Swiss.
The specific request made yesterday - which officials said are not "cast in stone and can be modified" as time goes on - cover about half the $22 billion in agricultural exports from the United States, including about $2.2 billion each to the European Economic Community and Japan.
In total, the U.S. made requests for tariff barriers reductions on one or more commodities to 90 of the countries participating in the multi-lateral trade talks for a total of about 1,300 to 1,500 separate requests on about 1,000 different commodities.
Countries are supposed to respond to the specific requests by Jan. 15.
"The negotiations begin, not end, Jan. 15." Wolff said.
While all requests made by the United States and other countries yesterday are bi-lateral ones, under the non-discrimination clauses by which most countries conduct their foreign trade, any concession it grants to one country it must grant to all countries (unless a country is specifically excluded from so-called most-favoured-nation status).
Wolfe said that the laws of the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade, under whose auspices the trade talks are held, the United States and other nations cannot reveal the specific requests they make.
In general, he said, the U.S. requests of the European Community are heavily in grains and citrus, while the requests of Japan cover beef and citrus products.
Most of the action in the trade talks - the first multi-lateral negotiations aimed at liberalizing the world trading order in a decade - has been among the developed countries.
Only the developed countries are operating under the general tariff reduction formula proposed by the Swiss.
Wolff said the U.S. position is to require some small degree of reciprocity on the part of developing nations "to integrate them into the world trading system," so they "assume the obligations as well as reap the benefits" of trade.
Countries that are not part of the general formula will engage in a similar request-offer procedure next month when the developed countries also announce what tariffs they are unwilling to reduce under the general formula.