The European Community agreed today to talks with the United States on two steel issues in exchange for an allowance on EC steel pipe exports, community officials said.
The agreement eased several months of tension over steel trade between Brussels and Washington, but the two commercial partners still face several months of difficult bargaining, community and U.S. officials said.
Willy DeClerq, the EC commissioner for external relations, said the agreement headed off a "major trade crisis" while allowing the community to protect its interests.
DeClerq said he hoped the same "spirit of conciliation" would be applied to efforts to resolve other points of dispute such as agriculture trade.
DeClerq concluded the steel agreement last weekend in Washington with Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, but the process of securing approval from the 10 member states was not finished until today.
The agreement means the United States will allow the community to export an extra 100,000 tons of steel pipes that EC producers want to provide for a Texas-California pipeline. The steel sale will permit the community to exceed a quota that limits its 1985 exports to 7.6 percent of the U.S. market.
The United States had resisted the community's arguments that increased sales were permitted under a clause of the pipe agreement that provides for extra exports if U.S. producers are unable to meet demand.
The EC had threatened retaliation if other producers were allowed to sell steel for the pipeline this spring after it became clear, the community said, that U.S. producers could not provide the pipes.
In exchange for the extra sales, the EC agreed to a rapid series of negotiations on the extension of the 1982 EC-U.S. steel accord and steel products not covered by the accord.
The United States has charged that EC producers have boosted sales of the other steel products, which include semifinished steel, alloy wire rod, black plate and tin-free steel, to avoid the restrictions in the 1982 agreement. Total sales of the products in the United States rose threefold from 1981 to 1984, according to U.S. trade officials.
The community, which refused U.S. demands earlier this year for restraints on the products, has argued that much of the export increase is due to the high value of the dollar and the quality of the EC steel.
Under the agreement, talks on these other steel products should be concluded by July 15. U.S. officials said if the community does not agree to curbs on the products, the United States would unilaterally limit imports.