Commerce Secretary Philip M. Klutznick said yesterday he doesn't see the "presence of real protectionism in this country" or the threat of a trade war abroad.
Klutznick, who recently returned from a 12-day, six-nation tour, said that despite antidumping complaints filed against seven European countries by U.S. Steel Corp., he hasn't seen indications of a trade war during his travels and "I haven't seen one on the horizon."
In addition, Klutznick -- who visited Poland for the ninth session of the Joint American-Polish Trade Commission -- said only minimal diversion of high-technology equipment from the Eastern European bloc countries to the Soviet Union has occurred since President Carter last January banned those sales to the Soviets.
"Our judgment is the leakage (of equipment to the Soviets) is minimal," Klutznick said at a press conference called to report on his trip. "I didn't have any detailed figures, and if I had them they would be classified."
Klutznick also said, in response to a reporter's question, that during his travels he discussed the leakage situation with the East Europeans "and I made our position clear and they understood it." Lutznick added that "despite the pressures, leakage has been relatively modest."
The East European countries have been "meticulous" about refusing to divert high-technology items to the Soviets, Klutznick said.
"Eastern European total trade is a very small percent of a trade of the United States," Klutznick said. But he added that for them trading with America is very important.
After the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet troops last December, some of the communist bloc countries "found themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea," Klutznick said. "They would like to have a period of dentente."
Concerning the import disputes involving automobiles and steel, Klutznick said "there is always the possibility of protectionism in a situation such as has developed with severe recession in some parts of the world and growing recession here." But Klutznick added that there isn't any "massive protectionism movement" here. The administration continues to avoid protectionist policies, Klutznick said. t
Later in the day, Klutznick addressed reporters following an appearance before a Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies' export competitiveness forum. He said that members of the Organization for the Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris expressed "revulsion" toward protectionism and that they endorsed a trade pledge against it.
U.S. Trade Representative Reubin Askew, speaking yesterday afternoon before the same group, also argued against protectionist policies, saying "when you succumb to protectionism . . . there's more than one to play that game."
Askew also said the U.S. government should help business export more. For example, Askew noted that Canada's steel industry can depreciate equipment over two years while U.S. companies can do so only over an average of 12 years. "Policies should be designed to make it possible for (the steel industry) to become competitive," Askew said.
Askew also said there is "no question that the government has got to help the car industry." He added, however, that he didn't know if that aid should be through tax incentives or in some other form.