The finance ministers of the major industrial nations will be asked to bring new pressure on Japan to contribute to global economic growth by accelerating its volume of imports, Jean-Claude Paye, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said here yesterday.
Paye met with Reagan administration officials and Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker during the past two days in preparation for the OECD's ministerial meeting April 11 and 12. Paye said there is "growing impatience" in Europe over Japan's swelling trade surplus with the rest of the world.
"Japan is very efficient in taking advantage of growth elsewhere [through its exports], but doesn't contribute to growth [in the rest of the world]. If Japan increased its imports, as the United States has, that would be a contribution," Paye told reporters.
In recent years, the OECD ministerial session has provided a curtain-raiser for some of the discussions at the heads-of-government economic summit. This year the summit will be held in Bonn early in May. In between the OECD and summit sessions, there will be a joint session in Washington of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund policy boards.
Paye, a former French diplomat and one-time adviser to Prime Minister Raymond Barre during the Giscard d'Estaing administration, succeeded Emil van Lennep last October as the chief figure of the OECD secretariat. The ministerial meeting next month will be the first under Paye's guidance, and it also will mark the first appearance on the international economic scene of U.S. Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III.
Paye said there would be no "spectacular initiatives" at the Paris OECD meeting. He visualized a thorough airing of Europe's problems in generating an adequate economic recovery, which so far lags behind the real economic growth record in North America and Japan.
The European economic growth rate this year will be only 2 to 2 1/2 percent, which means that the unemployment level -- "one of our black areas" -- is still increasing, Paye said.
"We are concerned about the possible social, economic and political consequences of high-level unemployment," he said. "If it continues for several more years, it could create a feeling of despair." He emphasized that, in his view, this point had not yet been reached.
He added that European governments also are worried about the large American trade deficit and the accompanying high dollar, even though he acknowledged that the stimulus to exports was creating great profitability for many European companies and contributing to the positive economic growth record.
"But there is a feeling that . . . nobody knows how long the present situation will last -- how long the American economy will stay strong, how long the dollar's climb will last," Paye said. "This psychological situation is dangerous: It induces people to be short-sighted, and to live in the present-day. . . . That's a bad thing for investment."
In a recent speech, he had warned that "the dollar could at any moment begin an excessive and hard-to-control decline."
In his talk with reporters, he agreed that the direct link some Europeans make between the huge American budget deficit and the soaring dollar "is a bit simplistic." Nonetheless, he argued that "it is very important" for the administration and Congress "to give the market a signal" that they are beginning to cope with the deficit by a meaningful reduction this year.
He expressed the hope that the result of the Paris OECD meeting would be "concerted" action on the part of the major players: a decline in the American deficit that would lead to lower international interest rates; more open markets in Japan; and further progress on Europe's part in reducing high wage rates and welfare expenditures that would make individual countries there more competitive.
Paye said that Europe had made more "painful and costly" progress than sometimes realized in "structural adjustments" that have helped to bring down inflation and to lay the basis for a better long-term growth pattern than envisioned for this year. For example, he said that real wages had decreased 15 percent in Denmark over the past four years.