The Carter administration record in helping the world's poorer nations make better progress was criticized sharply this week in a report by the Overseas Development Council.
The ODC, a privately endowed research organization established in 1969 to increase U.S. understanding of Third World problems, said that four years ago the Carter administration "had a major opportunity to reshape U.S. relations with the Third World.
But despite some positive accomplishments, the ODC said that the score card -- with Congress sharing the blame -- 'has been one of missed opportunities."
The main thrust of the report restates a theme that highlighted both the recent Brandt Commission Report and the Presidential Commission on World Hunger -- that the improved progress of the poor Third World is increasingly essential to the economic well-being of the richer nations.
In a forward to the report -- the 1980 edition of an annual "agenda" of development issues -- Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, ODC chairman, said that "for both rich and poor nations, crucial decisions can no longer be put off."
The report recognizes that growing exports from the Third World, considered crucial to improving quality of life, will pose difficult problems for the U.S. and other industrial importing nations.
But the argument is made that the developing countries already provide a major market for American goods, and that by assuring an open -- as contrasted with a protectionist -- trading system, the Third World actually could become the most dynamic source of global growth.
The critique of the Carter administration's performance in the Third World arena made a speical point of deflating what the Carter administration usually cites as one of its main accomplishments: The last round of multilateral trade negotiations.
Ratification of the MTN by Congress earlier this year was accompanied by considerable fanfare from the Carter administration, which claimed it was a major breakthrough, especially in the area of nontariff barriers, such as subsidies and quota restrictions.
But the ODC said that the agreements were "hammered out among the industrial countries with only minor attention paid to the needs of developing countries." Among the issues most relevant to the poor countries that the MTN did not deal with, the ODC said, was elimination of quota restrictions on certain categories of their exports.
One of the persistent demands of the Third World countries is expressing the need for a "new International Order" is that the industrial world accept a greater flow of exports that would arise from industrialization of the Third World.
Already, the report says, a number of developing countries have expanded their industrial base and have become significant exporters of manufactured goods. But this is a small number, which could grow. Thus, "The potential demand of developing countries for industrial-country capital, manufacturers, technology, food and other necessities is virtually unlimited," the report said.
The ODC said that its criticism of the MTN was in the context of expressed U.S. opposition to the more radical demands implied by the "new international order" and its commitment, as an alternative, to trade liberalization as the better way to help the Third World. In effect, the ODC report was saying, the U.S. performance didn't match its rhetoric.
Other areas where the ODC found the Carter record disappointing included commodities, where the Third World wants a heavily financed common fund to support surpluses. The ODC said that although the United States would gain anti-inflation benefits, U.S. officials do not support the kind of commodity arrangements the Third World wants.
The ODC acknowledged that the United States has supported substantial increases in the funding of the World Bank, IMF and other international leading authorities but suggested the U.S. record was "less forthcoming" on the question of rescheuling or forgiving the debt of the poorest countries.
On a related issue, the ODC noted that the U.S. record on development assistance -- despite repeated premises to increase such subsidized aid "substantially" -- has been going down in real terms. Against the United Nations target of 0.7 percent of GNP (achieved by some rich nations) the U.S. ratio is 0.19 percent, which put it 15th of the doners among the industrialized nations in the Organization of Economic cooperation and Development.