President Carter moved yesterday to stem the erosion of jobs in the domestic citizens' band radio manufacturing industry by raising tariffs sharply on imported CBs to blunt foreign competition.
The action will raise the present 6 percent tariff on foreign-made CBs to 21 percent this year, and then lower it, gradually, to 18 percent in 1979 and 15 percent in 1980. In 1981, the tariff would revert to 6 percent.
Carter's decision marked a compromise between opposing recommendations by "hawks" and "doves" on the U.S. International Trade Commission, who split between boosting tariffs to 36 percent and providing grants to U.S. workers.
However, Robert S. Strauss, the President's special trade negotiator, said Carter believed the commission's recommendation for a steeper tariff boost was "unacceptable" because it would add too much to domestic inflation.
Strauss said Carter believed the 5 percent tariff boost he finally approved would provide a balance between the two ITC recommendations. The commission had been divided, with half its members favoring each plan.
The administration has been under heavy pressure from the domestic CB manufacturers to protect the U.S. industry from foreign competition. Imported CBs, mostly from Japan, now have captured 85 percent of the U.S. market.
Strauss said the tariff boost announced yesterday would allow U.S. CB makers to raise prices somewhat and still compete with Japanese and othe Asian CB manufacturers, who have been selling here at cut rates.
Administration officials said domestic CB manufacturers have been selling their goods at only 50 percent of their 1976 price levels - often "at or below" their basic costs of production!
A separate Labor Department reported estimated yesterday that at least 1,300 workers in the domestic industry would be laid off this year, mainly because of foreign competition.
In the final dix months of 1977, an estimated 1,080 workers in the domestic CB manufacturing industry were declared eligible for federal adjustment assistance, or payments to employes of firms injured by imports.
Sales of CB radios have mushroomed since the devices became popular in the early 1970s. In 1972, for example, volume of CB sales here was $37 million. By 1977, the total had risen to $500 million or more.
However, most of the increase in sales went to Japanese or Taiwanese manufacturers. The International Trade Commission ruled in February that the domestic CB industry had suffered "serious injury" from imports.