President Carter's special trade representative placed at least part of the blame for the United States' poor position in world trade on laziness yesterday.
"We've gotten lazy because we've got a real fat, easy market right here," Robert Strauss said in testimony before the Senate Select Small Business Subcomittee on Government Procurement.
When committee Chairman Robert Mgrgan (D-N.C.) asked Strauss to compare Americans' efforts to get export business with those of the Japanese or Germans, Strauss replied, "Bum."
When asked by Morgan to elaborate, Strauss said amidst laughter in the hearing room, "Real bum."
"Probably today there are 12,000, 15,000 very competent Japanese individuals in New York selling Japanese products against American products," Strauss elaborated. "They speak good English. In Japan, maybe 75 Americans, maybe two speak Japanese. Then you'll know how we'll come out."
Strauss' testimony was elicited by the committee to determine some of the effects on small business of Carter's proposed multilateral trade pact.
Initial agreement between the U.S. and its trading partners would have ended the practice of setting aside portions of the government's procurement business for small and minority-owned business. However, under pressure by small and minority business-people and some members of Congress, the administration announced last week that it renegotiated provisions of the pact to exclude the minority and small business setaside from the agreement's provisions.
The pact also would affect product standards, tariffs and subsidies, and would still allow foreign companies to bid on some U.S. goverment contracts.
The committee members yesterday said they wanted to correct misinformation on the agreement's impact and determine how small businesses can take advantage of the $20 billion in foreign business that Strauss said the pact would open to them.
Strauss said that for small businsses to take advantage of foreign markets, a mechanism must be established to translate opportunities, publish them and distribute them.
"We've got between now and 1981" when the pact would become effective "to develop the mechanism," Strauss said. The Commerce Department "would develop skills to reach X, Y and Z Co. in Selma, Ala."
Strauss also said that as part of the trade agreement, the administration will assist small businesses through "direct contacts on pending tenders, translation facilities and direct assistance in dealing with foreign purchasing entities." CAPTION: Picture, Special Trade Representative Robert Strauss (left) huddles with Douglas Newkirk. By James K. W. Atherton-The Washington Post