President Carter has agreed on a beefed-up export promotion program that will, among other things, require federal agencies, including those dealing with foreign policy, safety, and the environment, to "weigh the consequences" on exports before they issue regulations.
The new program, under consideration since April when Carter announced the first phase of an anti-inflation effort, will be mentioned briefly by the president in his address today to the joint annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Full details will be released at a White House briefing tomorrow afternoon.
Carter's plan to eradicate or soften what have been considered "disincentives" to exports could not only bring complaints from environmentalists, but might be considered an incongruous soft-pedaling of the administration's emphasis on human rights.
Officials emphasized, however, that agencies will not be told to ignore safety, environmental or human rights considerations, but merely to be aware of how their proposed rulings might affect exports.
A high officials told The Washington Post "it has been a mistake all along to let the element of human rights creep into exports." The question has come up, for example, in a proposed Export-Import Bank credit for the sale of machinery by Allis Chalmers to Argentina. "What do we gain," he said, "if some other country comes along and sells them the same stuff?"
A proposed sale of Boeing 727s to Libya has been held up, and is still under discussion. There, the question is less one of human rights than terrorism.
Officials said the new export policy would not so ignore human rights as to allow - as to theoretical example - the export of weapons that might be used by local police forces to quell civil uprisings.
The export stimulation, modest in terms of budget costs, is part of the effort to trim the enormous trade deficit. This excess of imports over exports, around $30 billion annually, has contributed to a continuing weakness in the dollar on exchange markets of the world.
Carter is expected to emphasize that the United States will make other and perhaps more important efforts to cope with the combined deficit-dollar problem. He will cite a conservative budget and monetary policy, expectations of congressional passage of the energy bill, and his forthcoming anti-inflation wage-price guidelines.
The promotion plan will be accompanied by an executive order establishing a broadened Export Council, consisting of well-known private persons and public officials to monitor the program and report back to Carter.
The export promotion program will be broadly divided into "incentives" and steps to weaken "disincentives." Among the incentives:
A strong personal commitment by Carter, assigning exports a high policy priority. Most federal agencies have resisted any conscious push for exports, regarding it as not entirely in U.S. international interests.
A promise by Carter to work with Congress to find a new, cost-effective tax incentive to spur exports. But Carter will disappoint some elements of the business community by refusing to drop his opposition to the $1.1 billion tax break provided by DISC (domestic international sales corporations). The administration attitude is that DISC is a costly tax loophole and does not really stimulate export sales.
An increase of $500 million in the Export-Import bank's resources so it can finance larger loans.
An earmarking of $100 million in the existing resources of the Small Business Administration to help small exporters.
On the "disincentives" side, an executive order will direct all agencies to consider past and future export consequences of their regulations or decisions.
One example cited might be to allow the export of children's clothing now banned here as flammable. Another might be to allow the export of nuclear power equipment - if the purchaser is willing - that the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) might ban here.
Another disincentives effort will instruct the Justice Department to make clear what is allowed and what is disallowed under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Europeans are already worried by the competitive advantage that U.S. exports are expected to derive from the cheaper dollar.
Officials here are expected to respond that Europeans who criticize American policy cannot have it both ways. "If they are worried that the dollar is weak because we have a big trade deficit," one official remarked, "then they can't complain if we make a real effort to reduce that deficit."