The AFL-CIO denounced the Carter administration's foreign policy yesterday, saying it had created "a growing feeling of uncertainty and insecurity in our country, particularly among those of us who had much higher hopes after the 1976 presidential election."
This message was delivered by Sol C. Chaikin, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, speaking for the labor federation to the opening session here of the influential Trilateral Commission.
Chaikin's blunt criticism of President Carter, with an undisguised expression of labor disappointment in the man it backed strongly in the election campaign against Republican Gerald R. Ford, was the sharpest made since a similar assessment early last year by AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Lane Kirkland. That critique, however, was based largely on the AFL-CIO's disappointment with Carter's economic recovery program.
Chaikin is a new member of the Tri-lateral Commission, which was formed in 1973 at the suggestion of banker David Rockefeller to study proposals for joint action on pressing economic issues. There are about 200 members from North America, Europe, and Japan. Their meeting will continue here through Wednesday, and includes a reception today at the White House.
The trilateral meetings are closed to reporters, but Chaikin and Rep. John B. Anderson (Ill.), chairman of the House Republican Conference, held a press conference after an opening seminar. Under Secretary of the Treasury Anthony Solomon, a third member of the panel, did not brief reporters.
Chaikin ran through a litany of complaints on the Carter foreign policy:
He accused the Carter administration of "waffling and wobbling" on the development and deployment of neutron arms, which he said could be the most effective deterrent to "awesome" Soviet strength.
He said that "misunderstandings" between the United States and West Germany could weaken the North Atlantic Alliance, citing not only U.S. hestiation on neutron arms but also an unsteady hand in controlling the dollar, which he said "has left them [Europeans] in some kind of wonder."
He charged that the United States is prepared to recognize that the Soviet SS20 missiles are to be counted as nonstrategic weapons, merely becasue they cannot reach American territory." Chaikin warned that these "lethal" weapons could reach "and inflict great damage" on our Western European allies.
He suggested that "Washington may be getting ready to offer concessions to Moscow by declaring its readiness to restrict the range of the cruise missile." The full development of the cruise missile, he argued, would help offset existing military "imbalances that in our opinion can only encourage Soviet aggression."
He bitterly denounced the sale of F15 aircraft to Saudi Arabia, saying "we don't understand how you enhance Israel's security by giving sophisticated aircraft to those who may be Israel's enemies.
Anderson told the trilateral meeting that Congress is reasserting a role in both foreign and domestic policy issues, "but is in no position to formulate a coherent, alternative foreign policy."
Congress ad hoe, or reactive role on foreign policy issues, the Republican leader said, "can hardly be reassuring to either our allies or even potential enemies, since it is basically unpredictable, even irrational, and at times jingoistic."
Chaikin, whose powerful union has argued over the years that it is being weakened by growing imports, also made a passionate plea for "a more rational trade policy" that would protect American workers and industry.
"Free trade is a slogan that has been drained of its meaning in the last decade," Chaikin told reporters. He said that the United States needs various forms of "orderly marketing agreements" that will preserve shares of the American market for American workers and factories.
"To react after industries have been wiped out doesn't make any sense," he said.Chaikin conceded that some members of the Trilateral Commission were "provoked" by his ideas, especially recommendations for limiting the flow of capital and technology abroad. But he said he found growing support for the view that a more realistic attitude toward trade issues must be taken.
Chaikin said he was encouraged by Solomon's speech, which was not made available by the commission. Other official said Solomon stressed American willingness to contest subsidies and other unfair trade practices in negotiations now going on in Geneva.
On this same issue, Japanese Minister of Economic Planning Kiichi Miyazawa in effect agreed with Chaikin that "unconditionally free and nondiscrimintary trade is probably no longer the trump card in today's world."
But Miyazawa in a separate address noted that protectionism in all major countries comes mostly from producers, "rarely from consumers." He warned that if restrictions are to be placed on free trade, "that should not free any person or nation to neglect efforts to increase productivity."
Miyazawa also had some criticism of U.S. policy, expressed a bit more politely than Chaikin's. He noted that economic cooperation among nations is easier to set as a goal than to achieve, asserting that "the United States is indifferent, or oblivious, to the effects the fluctuating dollar has on other economics."
He also observed that although the United States is still the single strongest economy in the world, there has been "a relative decline" in the U.S. position. For example, he cited the growing power and prosperity of Japan, which in 1976 had a per capita income ratio of 1 to 1.7 with the United States, compared with only 1 to 9.9 in 1955.
"This should mean modification in American attitudes towards the world, and vice versa," Miyazawa said. The Japanese planner is often mentioned as a potential successor to the prime minister of his country.