Jacques Delors, who is making his first visit to Washington as president of the European Community Commission this week, said he will defend Western European economies against criticism from the Reagan administration but also believes the community can learn from recent U.S. economic accomplishments.
Delors will meet Tuesday and Wednesday with President Reagan and several Cabinet members. He said he hopes the visit will "reduce the misunderstandings between the U.S. and European Community," and ease tensions over steel trade, agricultural policies and other issues.
"I hope to come to a clarification of the respective positions" and encourage "cooperation in solving the problems of the world economy," Delors said in an interview Friday.
The trip to Washington will be the first for Delors, a former finance minister in the Socialist government of French President Francois Mitterrand, since he took over the leadership of the commission, the executive body of the 10-nation community, last January.
As commission president, Delors has not hesitated to acknowledge the decline of Western European economies in comparison with those of the United States and Japan. He has said that record levels of unemployment and stagnating industries are threatening the "credibility of Europe." But he has been sharply critical of calls by U.S. officials for the European Economic Community to adopt the administration's laissez-faire philosophy as the key to economic recovery.
"It is impossible to import to Europe what I call the new American [economic] model," Delors said. "We are in a different position, with different traditions." He believes Europe must preserve its mixed economies, balancing a vigorous private sector with "rational" government controls and more job-creating initiatives.
Delors also said that he sees a contradiction between the administration's economic views and the high budget deficit. "What would Americans think if Europe preserved jobs and created new employment with a current deficit of the same amount as the U.S.?" Delors asked. "It seems to me the American administration would be very critical."
Delors made similar remarks in Venice earlier this month at a conference on technology and jobs after Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige delivered a stinging attack on what he said was excessive regulation in the community and unnecessary restrictions on capital and investment.
Delors said in the interview that he is "convinced Europe can draw useful lessons" from recent trends in the American economy, "for example, in tackling new technology problems or facilitating the development of small and medium-sized enterprises."
Because of his interest in the economic potential of high technology, Delors arranged to spend two days in California later this week visiting firms in the Silicon Valley area and university industrial research centers.
During his talks with administration officials in Washington, Delors will discuss efforts to begin a new round of multilateral trade talks, as well as current trade problems between the United States and the community.
The community, in agreeing to a new trade round last month, said there must be "parallel" action to improve the monetary system, along with the negotiations. Delors, who as French finance minister worked to win acceptance for improvements in the system, said he is not in favor of "radical changes."
He said he welcomes the initiative by Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III for a meeting of industrialized nations on the monetary system. Cautious improvements in the functioning of the currency and financial markets are possible, Delors said.
Delors said he understands "why protectionist pressures are up in the United States" and believes "in the will of the administration to fight against protectionism." At the same time, community officials said they expect Delors to argue strongly in Washington against administration efforts to restrict community exports of semifinished steel products to the United States, and insist on complete fulfillment of the January agreement on steel pipe and tube.
The United States recently rejected a community request to supply a major pipeline project, which the community believes violated the January agreement.
American and community negotiators have held two meetings on exports of semifinished steel without reaching agreement. A 60-day consultation period established under the 1982 carbon steel agreement between Washington and Brussels ran out on April 8, allowing the United States to restrict imports of the semifinished products at any time. The community has warned that it will retaliate against U.S. controls.
Delors, 59, a former banker and member of the moderate wing of the French Socialist Party, played a key role in implementing Mitterrand's economic austerity program.
Arguing that the left must show itself capable of efficient economic management, Delors supported controls on automatic wage increases, insisted that the corporate sector should produce a healthy profit and battled against domestic protectionist pressures.
Delors is viewed in Brussels as a stronger leader of the 14-man commission than his predecessor, Gaston Thorn, and after his first three months in office already has several achievements to his credit. The most important was the successful completion of negotiations last month for the entry of Spain and Portugal into the community in 1986, diplomats here said. The enlargement from 10 nations to 12 will give the community more weight in international affairs politically and as a trading bloc.
Delors also fashioned a community aid program that satisfied the demands of Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who had threatened to veto the entry of Spain and Portugal if the aid was not sufficient.