President Carter told a blue-ribbon international financial audience here yesterday he would keep his pledges "to maintain a strong dollar" and said that on this issue, "my own reputation as a leader is at stake."
To a standing room-only audience of about 3,500 at the joint annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Carter listed promises he had made in mid-July at the economic summit at Bonn to "fight inflation, reduce oil imports, and expand (American) exports."
[WORD ILLEGIBLE] for dramatic effect, Carter [WORD ILLEGIBLE] there be no doubt in your minds how seriously I take those pledges. They encompass the most urgent priorities of my administration. I take these pledges on my own word of honor, and on behalf of the American people."
It was then that Carter added that his reputation depends on his carrying out the pledges, "and I came here today to underline that determination."
Without using any percentages, he said "we will achieve a strong U.S. economy, and the noninflationary growth" necessary to halt the dollar decline and the growth of the huge American trade deficit. He added that the United States "will remain an open economy and an attractive place in which to invest."
Carter did not add any new substantive details about his project anti-inflation program, which has not been completely worked out, and is not expected to be announced for another two or three weeks. In fact, it was not until last weekend that the president and his advisers decided it would be wise to address yesterday's opening sessions of the IMF-Bank meeting without having specifies to present.
But it was concluded on Saturday, after intensive debate, that his absence from his meeting would raise doubts about the determination of the United States to control inflation, a central concern of the bankers and financial men from 135 countries who are meeting in a four-day session here.
There was polite applause for the president, but no ovation, even when at the start of his brief remarks he invoked the general spirit of Camp David. The general reaction around the whole after his remarks was modestly favorable. "It sounds very good," said a Japanese banker, "especially if he does everything that he says."
Carter reiterated again, as he had in an address to the United Steel workers in Atlantic City last week, that the anti-inflation program would contain "specific, tough" measures and would be the beginning of a sustained effort against inflation, not "the end of the fight."
"There will be obstacles from special interest groups all along the way," Carter said, but told an attentive audience he would not be deterred. He predicted, as well, that there would be success in his efforts to get Congress to pass legislation controlling energy consumption before Congress adjourns in about another mouth.
Carter, whose administration was accused last year - especially in Europe - of "talking the dollar down," made at least three references to the urgency of a sound U.S. currency, not only for this country, but also for the world.
"We recognize the international role of the dollar, and accept the responsibilities (that) involves," he declared. He pledged, as well, continuing U.S. support for a growing role and increased funds for the two international institutions meeting here.
The tone of earlier speeches as the meeting opened yesterday morning was moderately optimistic about the dollar. Jacques de Larosiere, the new managing director of the IMF, called for a "convergence" of growth rates in the industrial world - meaning a slowdown next year in the United States and a pickup elsewhere, notably in Japan and West Germany.
In his maiden speech to an IMF annual meeting, de Larosiere predicted that if this happens the wide shifts that have taken place in exchange rates this past year - that is, the sharp decline in the dollar and the equally steep rise in the Japanese yet and European currencies - will lead to a substantial reduction in the U.S. current account (merchandise and services) deficit.
Almost all officials at the meeting here believe that the enormous deficits and surpluses of the major industrial nations this year will be transformed into a better balance in 1979. Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal privately assured his colleagues Sunday that the U.S. current account deficit which is nearing $20 billion this year is likely to be shaved by 30 to 40 percent next year.
If there was one cynical or discordant note raised at yesterday's session, constrasting with Carter's stress on international cooperation and interdependence, it came from the 40-year-old Malaysian minister of financee who has the ceremonial role of chairing the joint sessions.
Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah took the opportunity to scoff at what he said were the empty promises of the "several economic summit meetings that have come and gone." He added that "there is growing cynicism in the world today about the relationship between the rich and the poor."
Hamzah called for more serious efforts by the rich nations for a "new approach" to a new international economic order, and demanded "a definite start" by the industrial nations "to phase out their least sophisticated industries, which could be more beneficially undertaken by the developing countries."