Reagan administration trade officials predicted yesterday that negotiations now under way in Geneva will give the United States new curbs on textile imports and an opportunity to press for new agricultural trade talks.
Third-world textile sales to the United States will be limited by the continuation for five years of the multi-fiber arrangement (MFA), which expires Thursday, the trade officials said.
But U.S. textile interests have attacked the American negotiators for giving away too much. Carlos Moore, head of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, said the U.S. stance falls "far short of what we think is needed."
The textile industry is trying to line up the votes to override President Reagan's veto of a textile-quota bill. Uncertainty about the veto vote has hung like a black cloud over both the textile talks and the discussions about the agenda for negotiations to revitalize the international agreement that polices world trade, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
Third World nations originally opposed extending the MFA, which allows the United States and Western Europe to place limits on textile imports. But the textile suppliers later decided they were better off with a guaranteed share of the U.S. market in the face of increased protectionism in this country.
The threat that Congress will override the administration's veto of quotas has been used as a hammer by U.S. negotiator Charles Carlisle to win agreement for the tough U.S. stand in the textile talks. As a result, the administration's goal of extending MFA coverage to new fibers such as silk and ramie appears likely to be accomplished.
While the MFA talks seem to be moving on schedule, unexpected snags have developed in negotiations over the agenda for a new round of global trade talks due to start in September in Uruguay.
The negotiations are being conducted by 48 industrialized and developing nations representing slightly more than a majority of the 91 GATT members.
It appeared last week that the 48 nations -- including the United States, the European Community, Japan and newly industrialized countries of the Pacific Rim -- were close to finishing their work.
But sources in Washington and Geneva said the European nations -- pressed by France -- balked last week at making an attack on farm subsidies a priority of the new GATT round. U.S. Ambassador to GATT Michael Samuels said this was undermining support for the new GATT round from Third World nations, who feel their farm trade is being hurt by the increasing subsidization of agriculture in Europe and the United States.
This week, Australia threw a new monkey wrench into the talks because of the farm trade issue, officials of the U.S. Trade Representative's office said. The Australians are angry at the Reagan administration because of a Senate-passed measure that would subsidize wheat sales to the Soviet Union and China.
The farm issue is a major priority for the United States in the new GATT round -- along with trade in services, protection of patents and copyrights and investment.
The Reagan administration wants the GATT agenda to put the issue of export subsidies for farm products on a fast negotiating track, but the Europeans -- under pressure from France -- rejected the U.S. demand. France is concerned that any ban on farm subsidies would threaten the EC's Common Agricultural Policy that supports Western European farmers.
The Reagan administration has won support on the farm issue from Third World nations that feel they are being hurt by recent increases in U.S. and EC subsidies to their farmers. The Reagan administration argues that it was forced to subsidize agricultural exports to counter EC export subsidies that stole sales from U.S. farmers.
The 10 Third World nations allied with Brazil and India are most concerned that setting rules for trade in services such as banking, insurance and engineering will deprive them of their chance to move ahead in those areas. There are some indications of a possible compromise, however, through phasing in the new rules in much the same way that GATT rules allow lesser developed countries to protect infant manufacturing industries from outside competition.