In an attempt to ease a major trade crisis, the European Economic Community has asked the Reagan administration to stop applying millions of dollars in duties against steel imported from Europe until both sides can negotiate a "voluntary" steel export arrangement.
The EEC also said yesterday that, instead of attempting to negotiate an arrangement covering all steel exports to the United States, it will seek a separate agreement for each steel product. Previous negotiations to end the steel crisis have been stymied because the U.S. steel industry wanted any voluntary arrangement to cover steel tubing and pipe for the oil industry. The Europeans, however, oppose including those goods because they account for about 20 percent of their exports.
A spokesman for Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said the department is "open to all suggestions" to solve trade tensions that also relieve injury to the U.S. industry.
However, West German economics minister Otto Graf Lambsdorff told reporters during a luncheon that the EEC Council of Ministers had decided not to push steel as a community issue, but to leave it to each European government to negotiate separate agreements because the council "was not able to reach a community-wide decision."
The EEC delegation in Washington, however, denied Lambsdorff's remarks and said all negotiating powers lie with the commission, not individual countries. "No member states can go to the U.S. and sign an agreement without the commission," an EEC spokesman said.
"Either we avoid--and this is the preference of the community--a further escalation of present tensions or the U.S. government refuses this last offer, which is made in good faith," said EEC Vice President Etienne Davignon. "In this latter case, each of you can imagine what would be the consequences of a negative U.S. response." Davignon did not say what those consequences would be, although he previously has said the EEC is being pressured to retaliate.
In another action involving steel imports, a federal grand jury in San Francisco yesterday indicted Mitsui & Co. Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of the giant Mitsui trading company, and three Japanese nationals on charges of attempting to avoid U.S. dumping charges by filing false information on prices of steel sold by Mitsui to American companies.