A major international attempt to head off burgenoning protectionism in the world's crisis-ridden steel industry is outlined in a secret document drafted jointly by the U.S. administration, the European Econimic Community's executive commission, and the Japanese governemnt, and is scheduled to be discussed by representatives of leading industrialized nations at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris tomorrow and Friday.
A key element of the terse 12-point text, prepared during confidential trilateral discussions in Brussels and Washington in April, is the call on the West's leading steel-producing nations to create a high-level steel committee to monitor international market developments and supervise the often competitive national responses to which they give rise.
Among the priority tasks proposed for the committee would be to "develop common perspectives regarding the emerging problems or concerns in the steel sector and establish, where appropriate multilateral objectives or guidelines for government policies." according to a version of the document currently circulating in diplomatic circles here.
In addition, U.S. officials here hope the steel committe will enable "fast-track" policy consultations on key measures. "All anti-dumping and safeguard actions in the steel sector should be fully consistent with present and future General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade provisions and should be reported both to the GATT and the steel committee prompetly," the text says.
The committee also would have broadly defined powers of intertional secrutiny. Designed to "meet regularly and in special sessions," it would "continuously follow the evolution of national, investment, capacity production costs productivity, and other aspects of viability and competitiveness," according to the text.
While this ambitious call for stepped-up international consulation on governments' steel policies has yet to be sold by the administration to Congress and by the EEC commission to the goverments of its nine member states its prospects seem fair.
Both EEC and U.S. official here recognized that the whole cause of world trade liberalization, currently centred on the Tokyo Round talks being held at the GATT in Geneva, could be decisively jeopardized if no organized solution is found for the choatic conditions now prevailing on international steel markets.
"If the steel problem is not solved, there could be snowballing of protectionism into other sectors, and this could lead to a complete emptying of the contents of the Tokyo Round," claimed one anxious Common Market official involved in the international steel talks.
American officials contacted here appear to concur. They explain the administration's support for closer international supervision of world steel markets as the price to be paid for gaining industry and congressional backing for continuing steel trade liberalization talks in the Tokyo Round.
"We need a way of showing Congress and industry that other governments aren't doing things for their industry which we are not doing for ours," explain American diplomats here.