A senior European Community official said today that the United States' "openly aggressive manner" of resolving trade disputes is threatening to damage the world trading system permanently.
In one of the community's sharpest attacks on U.S. trade policy, Willy De Clerq, the EC commissioner for external and commercial relations, said the United States is being "intransigent" on several bilateral disputes and showing signs of wanting to "go it alone" in international trade.
The United States and the community have a "compelling duty" to resolve their disputes peacefully, De Clerq said in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce.
"I appeal to my U.S. colleagues to reflect on the permanent damage which, if we cannot find ways of containing our differences, we would inflict on ourselves as well as the open trade system on which so much of the prosperity of the Western world continues to depend," De Clerq said.
De Clerq's comments were aimed in part at the decision of the Agriculture Department to counter EC farm exports by giving away up to $2 billion in surplus agriculture products. The United States said the EC has used subsidies unfairly to boost its farm exports.
De Clerq said the community rejects implications that it is using unfair trade practices to increase its agricultural exports, and it is studying the U.S. subsidy program to see if it is in compliance with U.S. "international obligations."
The United States and the community are also at odds over American efforts to limit EC steel exports. Talks on several steel questions over the past few months apparently have made little progress, and De Clerq said the United States is showing "increasing intransigence" on the issue of EC pipe exports.
De Clerq said he is "seriously concerned about the growing number of our bilateral differences and, more significantly, the openly aggressive manner by which the United States seeks to resolve them."
If the new U.S. export subsidy program is an example of the use of an "eye-for-an-eye philosophy" in resolving trade questions, "I do not think that it is conducive to promoting the spirit of dialogue which we need if we are to promote an improvement in the GATT system," he said. GATT is the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which governs the way international trade is conducted.
Suggestions that the present system is "tilted against the United States" overlook the role of the high dollar in creating the American trade deficit, which stood at a record $123.3 billion last year, he said.