U.S. trade negotiator Robert Strauss said yesterday he was "reasonably confident" progress could be achieved when multi-lateral trade negotiations resume in Geneva next week despite skepticism from European leaders.
Strauss gave his assessment of the trade talks during a whirlwind tour of Paris, Bonn, Copenhagen and Brussels in an effect to "set the stage" for the resumption of talks.
Negotiators have set a tentative December 15 deadline for reaching agreement.
Top officials of the nine-nation European Economic community, with whom Strauss met for private talks late Thursday evening, apparently repeated their earlier warning that the EEC could not conclude the trade talks before Washington lifted the threat of generalized application of countervaling duties against European exports to the USA. In a letter to EEC Commission President Roy Jenkins late last month, President Carter expressed confidence in his ability to persuade congreess next January to allow the continued waiver of countervailing duties.
Sounding a less encouraging note, Strauss admitted that "we have some problems" if the December 15 deadline set at Bonn for MTN completions reached their climax new difficulties were emerging, warned the President's envoy, whose normal buoyant optimism was noticeably lacking as he spoke briefly to reporters before leaving for Bonn where he was to continue his trade talks with German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Further signs of the west's collective awareness of the grave threat facing the trade talks as a result of the counter vailing controversy came from an EEC official present at Thursday night's confidential session. He termed the session with Strauss a "joint crisis management meeting," noting that the American negotiator had warned that "you can never accurately predict what happened in Congress."
The same source indicated that Strauss had reported to EEC leaders, including Jenkins and chief EEC negotiator Whilhelm Haferkamp that his talks in Paris with French Prime Minister Raymond Barre had gone well, but provided no detailed commentary.
France is considered the toughtest of EEC countries in the international trade talks, particularly on farm products. But agriculture is precisely the area where Strauss is seeking trade concessions from the EEC in an attempt to build MTN package acceptable to congress.