A measure to sharply cut textile imports, the vanguard of the congressional push for trade legislation, last night survived a Senate test by a 53-to-42 margin.
The legislation, which faces an almost certain presidential veto and the threat of a filibuster, mustered wide-enough support to turn back an attempt to detach it from the Micronesia Compact bill, which contains the lease for the Defense Department's key test range for the MX missile.
But Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) pulled the Micronesia Compact off the Senate floor until next week to give the Senate time to consider debt ceiling and budget reconciliation measures -- must legislation for running the government.
Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), the textile measure's prime sponsor, said American textile makers need the legislation to protect them from a surge of imports from foreign competitors heavily subsidized by their governments. He called the U.S. industry "the most modern in the world" and said it would be able to hold the domestic market if it were not for unfair trade practices by other countries.
Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) said the legislation "is just too terrible" to support even though it also offers import relief for the domestic shoe manufacturers, who he said desperately need that protection. Danforth said the bill would cost American consumers $14 billion a year in higher prices and would put $33 billion of U.S. exports at risk of trade retaliation.
Earlier yesterday, U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter said the Reagan administration plans to "reassess the entire trade strategy with Japan in an effort to intensify pressure on that country to allow American products into its market."
But that reassessment is not likely to take place until next year, Yeutter said, because he is so busy dealing with a surge of protectionist pressure from Capitol Hill. That task has occupied much of his time ever since he took the job last July as President Reagan's point man on trade.
"We will increase the intensity of pressure on Japan as time goes on," he said in answer to questions from members of the American Business Conference, which held its regular meeting here.
In other trade action on Capitol Hill, a telecommunications bill designed to open foreign markets to U.S. products was overwhelmingly approved by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill is sponsored by Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.) and Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.).
In another development, President Reagan announced the creation of an Administration Trade Strike Force designed to uncover unfair trade practices against American industries and to develop strategies to counter and eliminate them, the White House announced. The task force, which was first mentioned in the president's trade message 10 days ago, will be headed by Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige.
Although many of the questions afterwards focused on that subject, Yeutter never mentioned Japan in his speech to the business group. Instead, he emphasized the administration's strong antiprotectionist sentiments mixed with tough talk about unfair trade practices that hurt U.S. overseas sales and flood America with imported products.
He said the president is studying whether to initiate new investigations of unfair trade practices by other countries, on top of the three he called for last month and the tight deadlines he put on two investigations already under way.
Yeutter said that strategy, widely believed to be a reaction to strong pressure from Congress that the administration do something about the country's record $150 billion trade deficit, had caught the attention of U.S. trading partners. One of the investigations, centering on Japan's restrictions on sales of U.S. cigarettes, will bring retaliation against the Japanese if they do not change their practices.
Yeutter declined to list any other unfair trade practices that might draw possible U.S. retaliation. But other government trade sources said the administration is considering investigation of European subsidies for the airbus and Japanese protection of its aluminum industry, among others.
As an example of what Yeutter called "a tight timetable" that the administration has set for its trade negotiations with Japan, he said the president has imposed a Jan. 1 deadline for the satisfactory resolution of market-opening talks in four areas agreed to last January by Reagan and Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone.
But industry and Japanese sources said they thought he was overly optimistic on a timetable for concluding the talks, especially because of the lack of any progress in one of the four major areas, lumber and wood products. A politically potent faction of Nakasone's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has taken a firm position against reducing tariff barriers to imports.
U.S. negotiators have reported substantial progress in only one of the four areas -- telecommunications.
Industry officials expressed satisfaction with the first phase of the talks, and said the second phase also appears to be going well.
"We are seeing implementation" of the first phase agreement, said Ralph J. Thomson , senior vice president of the American Electronics Association. He said Japanese officials are inviting representatives of U.S. companies to join standard-setting committees as a result of the talks, giving them a better chance to sell their products.
But progress has been slower in the other three areas -- sophisticated electronics, prescription drugs and medical devices and lumber and wood products. Japanese health officials continue to insist that ethnic differences require separate testing on Japanese subjects before drugs can win approval. And while U.S. industry wants to open the market for such sophisticated medical equipment as new forms of kidney dialysis machines, Japan's initial offer was to remove restrictions on equipment such as tongue depressors and percussion hammers.