Congress opened consideration of a historic free trade agreement between the United States and Canada yesterday, with U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter urging lawmakers to make "a big picture evaluation" of the pact instead of picking it apart on narrow grounds.

"For the vast majority of {U.S.} industries, there is a vast improvement over the status quo," Yeutter told the trade subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.

"The United States and Canada now have a rare opportunity to strengthen our special trading relationship and to reduce substantially barriers to bilateral trade and investment," added Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III. "If we rise to the occasion, we will leave a lasting legacy for future generations. If we do not rise to the occasion, we will have no other opportunity to conclude such an agreement for years to come. We should not let this opportunity slip away."

But with Yeutter and Baker sitting before the panel for more than two hours, a parade of committee members complained that the agreement offers less than free trade and shortchanges a host of American products from auto parts and textiles to eggs and trail mix. In all, the lawmakers named at least 11 U.S. industries or products in which they said Canada got the better of the deal to the detriment of the United States.

"I don't see how you can evaluate this agreement unless you look at its impact on industries and states," said Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.), who challenged Yeutter on the pact's treatment of auto parts.

Nonetheless, early soundings indicated that the agreement, signed Jan. 2 by President Reagan and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, is likely to win congressional approval, although some U.S. lawmakers are angered at Canadian moves to protect their clothing industries through tariff rebates on imported fabric.

Rep. Ed Jenkins (D-Ga.) said the Canadian textiles rebate proposal "seems to fly in the very face of this agreement" and has aroused "tremendous concern" in Congress, especially from the politically powerful textile state lawmakers.

"We are looking for assurances that this has been resolved before 100 members {of the House textile caucus} go their own way {by voting against the pact}, if you understand me," Jenkins said.

"Your concerns and our concerns are identical," replied Yeutter. He lodged a complaint about the proposal last month to Finance Minister Michael Wilson, who headed Canadian negotiators in the last ditch efforts in October to conclude the agreement.

Under the agreement, either country can set up duty rebate plans until June 30, but Yeutter said the Canadian proposal seems to go against promises by the two countries not to add any new protectionist barriers while the agreement is being ratified. Canada has been extremely vocal in its complaints that provisions in a trade bill now before Congress could hurt it in violation of the free trade agreement.

Jenkins also said the agreement put Georgia egg producers at a disadvantage since their sales are limited in Canada while the Canadians have free entry into this country.

At least three representatives -- Thomas Downey (D-N.Y.), Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) and Marty Russo (D-Ill.) -- complained about Canada enshrining protection for its entertainment and publishing industries in the free trade pact by calling them part of the nation's culture, and about threats by the Mulroney government to restrict sales of U.S. films and video tapes.

Baker said the film industries of the two countries "are very, very close" to reaching an agreement that would help U.S. distributors.