The transfer of tourist facilities at Yosemite National Park from Matushita Electric Industrial Co. to a nonprofit American buyer {news story, Jan. 8} should be a relief to us all. I commend Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan for having the courage to act on his convictions, regardless of the potential controversy. Though this particular incident is over, the message still stands: our commitment to free trade cannot allow us to neglect American interests.

Clearly this does not restrict foreign business in this country under most circumstances, but there are limits. Any country that intends to maintain its place in the world order must be politically and culturally self-sufficient. The flap over Yosemite was about protecting America -- not America, the economic power, but America, the cultural entity. The Japanese politicians who object to foreign rice imports on cultural grounds {news story, Jan. 5} have figured this out already; theirs is a model of prudent restraint, not xenophobia.

The consequences of not having enough restraint are subtle. If Matsushita had retained the facilities at Yosemite, the company may have shifted to Japanese suppliers for film, soap, whatever -- not out of loyalty to Japanese industry, but because buying Japanese is more convenient for it (and, thanks to Japanese protectionist policies, probably cheaper as well). The result could have been American tourists capturing their memories of America on Japanese film, for example. How can American companies be competitive on the world market when they can't even make their products available in areas maintained by the U.S. government?

Appealing to the economic principles of free trade to justify Matsushita's control of Yosemite facilities fails, because it ignores the cultural implications of such an action. We don't have separate worlds where economic, political and cultural ideas can each be played out. We live in one world, and when principles collide something must give way. KIRAN S. KEDLAYA Silver Spring