"The pride is back, born in America," Chrysler Corp. boasts in TV commercials for its cars.

Miller Beer brags of being brewed in America, and even Lowenbrau, a famous name in German beer, points out that it is made in the United States.

And the textile and apparel industry is sponsoring a series of commercials about its products, using the slogan, "Crafted with pride in the U.S.A."

"Just as it was a Rocky-Rambo kind of year in the movies, a standin'-tall, standin'-proud kind of theme year emerged in advertising," wrote Barbara Lippert, a columnist for Adweek magazine.

It is no accident that advertising agencies have landed on this theme.

They are trying to tap a new well of American patriotism that focuses on trade and competitiveness at a time when U.S. industries are being battered at home and abroad by foreign manufacturers.

Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), pushing for new ideas in trade legislation, says mounting trade deficits are testing Americans' sense of patriotism and self-esteem. "We are learning that the problems are economic, not military," he said.

"We were all raised to think that America is No. 1. Now we are starting to see some of that slipping away. People like to be No. 1, they are proud to be Americans," said Arthur C. Liebler, the general marketing manager for Chrysler-Plymouth, who helped pick the "born in America" slogan.

Liebler acknowledged that the approach carries with it "a little chauvinism" that could lead to a protectionist view of American trade. But he said Chrysler research showed that the "pride in America" ad campaign scored well all over the country -- even in California, where foreign cars dominate the roads.

The Californians seemed to be saying they shouldn't be criticized for buying foreign cars because the American manufacturers weren't making what they wanted, but that they would go back to U.S. products if they satisfied the market.

Congress returns to Washington this week after its Christmas recess facing new legislative challenges as it tries to fashion a strategy to meet record trade deficits, expected to approach $150 billion when final figures for 1985 are announced later this month.

The pressures from labor unions and industries feeling the pinch of foreign competition now mingle with the cross currents created by the testing of self esteem arising from record trade deficits and stirrings of patriotic zeal to make America No. 1 again.

The question troubling trade specialists on Capitol Hill, in the Reagan administration and in academic and business circles is which way Congress will go.

Will it take a strictly protectionist route, as it tried to do last year only to be thwarted by a last-minute trade initiative by President Reagan when he was faced with a bipartisan congressional revolt on trade?

Or will it act to encourage improvements in American competitiveness; increase adjustment assistance to workers thrown off the job because of trade flows, and tinker only slightly with existing laws to strip away other countries' trade advantages?

After returning in September from the summer recess, Democrats tried to make political hay from soaring trade deficits while congressional Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), pressed the administration to take the initiative on trade.

Dole, who promised to clear time for trade on the Senate calendar early this year, said the issue could cost Republicans control of the Senate.

The trade push fizzled as fall turned to winter, and it remains unclear just how potent an issue it is. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Robert Packwood (R-Ore.), who is up for reelection, told staff members his polls show trade is not a major issue in Oregon.

Democrats in the South, however, are sponsoring ads denouncing Reagan for his veto of the textile bill last month, and Republicans in the region are concerned that the veto could cost them votes.

U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter credits the administration initiative, including four presidential speeches last fall, with turning Congress away from purely protectionist bills toward more responsible trade legislation.

An outside expert agrees. "The most extreme protectionist measures probably will not become law this year," said the Brookings Institution's Robert Z. Lawrence. "But I do think there is going to be legislation. There is immense dissatisfaction in Congress with the way the current trade laws work."

The House Ways and Means Committee, with its tax bill sent to the Senate, is now ready to take up trade, and Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) says a wide-ranging bill should be ready for the floor by spring.

Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) is considering holding a closed-door seminar outside Washington on trade the way he did with taxes, inviting academics and other experts to bring new ideas to the debate.

"The biggest concern is that people on the Hill are all over the place on trade," said one influential committee staff member. "We know it's busted, but we just haven't all the answers to fixing it yet."

Nonetheless, the aide predicted any bill finally passed by the House would stress five main topics, all contained in legislation already introduced:

*A provision restricting presidential discretion in overruling International Trade Commission recommendations for tariffs or quotas in cases where domestic industries are hurt by surging imports or unfair trade practices. This is almost certain to be opposed by the administration because it undercuts presidential authority.

*Increased adjustment assistance for workers and industries hurt by imports, also likely to be opposed by the administration.

*Permission for the administration to take part in a new round of global trade talks aimed at strengthening the 90-nation General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the international agency that regulates world commerce. The administration has pressed for a new round to undercut protectionist pressures from Congress and industries.

*A toughening of laws against unfair trade practices, an area that could contain highly protectionist elements. One, sponsored by Rep. Sam Gibbons (D-Fla.), redefines subsidies to include the price advantage other countries give their domestic industries over foreign companies in the sale of natural resources such as timber and natural gas. This provision hits the United States' neighbors to the north and south, Canada and Mexico, as well as Saudi Arabia's emerging petrochemical and oil refining capacity.

*Finally, some link between trade policy and a reform of the international monetary system to correct wide disparities in currency values. That type of reform is being pressed in the House Banking Committee by Rep. Stan Lundine (D-N.Y.) and is considered likely to be included in a House trade package, The overvalued U.S. dollar has been blamed as the major cause of this country's trade deficit.

The Ways and Means Committee is not the only player in the House trade game. Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), anxious to increase the turf of his Committee on Energy and Commerce, is pushing a bill cosponsored by the panel's ranking minority member, Rep. James T. Broyhill (R-N.C.). That bill, which was reported out by the full committee before Christmas with strong support from organized labor, aims at making it easier for U.S. industries to fight imports by toughening America's domestic trade laws.

It is a different story in the Senate, where sweeping legislation is believed likely to have trouble reaching the floor despite Dole's December promise to put it on the calendar early in this session.

The Senate Finance Committee will be preoccupied with the tax bill sent over by the House just before the Christmas recess, and no trade measure is expected to be considered until spring. That means no bill is likely to emerge from the committee until the late summer, at which point a Senate anxious to get home for election-year campaigning may not want to take up such a contentious issue.

Aides point out that it is difficult to get a trade bill on the Senate floor because its rules of open debate allow for the introduction of amendments that would give protection to specific industries, which both the administration and many senators oppose.

For that reason, the administration is reported to be reconsidering whether it wants any trade legislation, including the authority it will need soon to take part in a new GATT round.

Nonetheless, trade specialists believe the Senate is likely to give quick passage to either or both of two trade measures that already have passed the Finance Committee, both sponsored by Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), chairman of the trade subcommittee.

One, aimed particularly at Japan and secondarily at the European Community, would restrict telecommunication imports from countries that limit sales by American telecommunications companies. The other, which passed the Senate as a nonbinding resolution last year by a 98-to-0 vote, would require the president to retaliate against Japan if its markets remain closed to American products.

"That bill could get 85 votes if it came to the floor right now. It's a very popular measure," said a key Senate trade specialist.

With a two-way trade surplus expected to total about $50 billion when final figures for 1985 are released later this month, Japan has emerged as the major villain on Capitol Hill for America's lopsided trade imbalance.

Danforth, on a trip to Tokyo last week, told Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone that its huge trade surpluses with the United States and the rest of the world threaten the global trade system.

He accused Japan, the world's second-largest economy, of "abdicating its responsibilities" and said: "No other nation contributes so little to the open trading system of the world in proportion to what it gains."

The Danforth comments, which followed a strongly worded speech by Dole on the Senate floor in December, seemed to signal a revival of the congressional mood to punish Japan for what is widely seen in this country as unfair tactics that protect its home markets while it floods the world with its exports.

The administration appears to be gambling that the yen's gains on foreign exchange markets -- 20 percent against the dollar since September -- will begin to turn around the trade figures before Congress has a chance to act.

Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige predicts the turnaround will come by June, which would produce a better trade picture in the second half of 1986.

Not everyone agrees with his scenario, however. Former Commerce undersecretary Lionel Olmer, now an attorney in private practice, expects greater market penetration by imports this year than last, as well as a higher trade deficit.

"The big issue will be Japan," he said, with the decision by Tokyo on whether or not to continue its restraints on auto shipments to the United States playing a major role in how large the Japanese surplus will be.

Olmer said it will grow by $3 billion to $4 billion in cars and auto parts alone if all restraints are lifted.

Japan, which imposed limited restraints on its own last year after four years of negotiated quotas ended, says it has not decided whether to continue the restraints when they expire March 31.

But the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun reported in Tokyo last week that some restraints are likely to be continued because of an increase in Japan's share of the U.S. auto market, from 19.7 percent in 1984 to 21.8 percent in 1985.

Olmer's successor as commerce undersecretary, Bruce Smart, believes the increased value of the yen will dampen American enthusiasm for Japanese cars. The currency realignment adds $2,000 to the price of a $10,000 Japanese car, he said.

"That's got to have some bite" -- either forcing the Japanese companies to increase prices or cutting into their profits, which will make it harder for them to reinvest in further improvements, he said.

Car imports, then, may be the focus of the 1986 congressional trade battles. Underscoring the schizoid nature of the debate, Chrysler -- which brags, "The pride is back, born in America," for its Plymouths -- used another slogan for its made-in-Japan Mitsubishi cars marketed under Dodge and Plymouth labels:

"The only Japanese you will need to know."