Your Sept. 5 editorial noted that the reason for the delay in granting Romania Most Favored Nation trading status was political. Petre Roman, the Romanian prime minister, has stated his eagerness to come to the United States to be questioned by Congress about his government's conduct during violent demonstrations in June and "to answer every question and every criticism directly in the pure American style." He should be given this opportunity.
Many Western observers believe Romanian President Ion Iliescu did not know how to use his popularity -- gained in elections generally acknowledged as fair -- to cope in a democratic way with his opposition after the election. As Americans, we have had more than 200 years of experience with dissent and have learned how to address similar challenges without violence. Romania had only a brief and fragile democracy before World War II and experienced more than 50 years of tyranny thereafter.
Despite Iliescu's stated intention to impress Western democracies with Romania's implementation of democratic principles, he failed to deal with his opposition in accordance with those principles when faced with the June demonstrations. It was a lack of understanding of how to implement such principles, rather than an evil intent, that caused the June debacle.
Since June, both the president and the prime minister have acknowledged publicly that the government made serious mistakes in dealing with the demonstrations and have taken measures to correct them. Detainees have been released, and an investigation of persons guilty of violent actions during these demonstrations has begun. On the economic front, steps are also underway to prepare Romania for a free-market economy through privatization. In foreign affairs, Romania decided not to vacate its embassy in Kuwait, despite Iraq's control of $1.2 billion of Romanian assets and severe financial losses estimated at $3 billion resulting from the U.N.-imposed embargo of Iraq. Indeed, the Romanian ambassador to the United Nations, who served as the chairman of the Security Council during August, has been most supportive of the U.S. initiatives.
After the December 1989 revolution, the pro-American feeling in Romania was at a high point, and American friendship was considered by many Romanians to be a significant hope for this small country to be able to overcome its big problems. The economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Romania had the inadvertent effect of punishing the Romanians and sapping their expectations. The U.S. government should consider whether U.S. economic sanctions, including the denial of Most Favored Nation trading status, have now served their purpose and have become counterproductive.
In view of the positive steps taken by the Romanians to rectify the situation, and with a little understanding of some of Romania's handicaps, many Americans who interest themselves in this region believe it is time for us to invite Roman to explain his government's actions and its vision for the future. -- Mark A. Meyer The writer is leading an economic mission of the City of New York to Romania.