Special U.S. Trade Negotiator Robert S. Strauss said yesterday that American recognition of China was necessary to help this nation overcome its $30 billion trade deficit.
"If we are going to deal in a competitive society, then of course it was necessary," he said in an interview on "Issues and Answers" ABC, WJLA).
The trade negotiator noted that "Japan probably sells China six or seven times as much as we do; Europe probably five or six times as much as we do, and they were opening the gap."
He cautioned that "we are not going to catch up overnight just because China came into... the world markets. But over a period of time it can make a major difference. It is a major market for us."
One "overnight" gain, Strauss said, will come in increased sales of U.S. grain to China, which in 1978 bought more than 3 million metric tons of American wheat and corn. Strauss said in the coming year, U.S. farmers would supply 5 million metric tons. However, an Agriculture Department source said later that the Chinese had told American officials they expect to buy about 6 million metric tons each year.
Strauss also noted that the United States has agreed to build a communications satellite for China so that it will be able to beam color television throughout the country.
He said the deal involves "half a billion dollars." About 80 percent of the equipment will be made in the United States "and then NASA [the National Aeronautics and Space Administration] will, for a fee, go up and launch the satellite," he said.
Asked about the substantial amount of trade China already has with other countries, Strauss replied "We are in shape to catch up now rather soon." He said the United States was "better than the rest of the world" in making aircraft, oil field equipment and "heavy equipment of all kinds."
He said that when Chinese Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping visits the United States later this month his trip "will be beamed back in China -- something that hasn't been done before."
In another telvision interview on "Meet the Press," (NBC, WRC), Commerce Secretary Juanita M. Kreps cautioned U.S. business leaders "not to set out timetable too fast" for increasing trade with China. "I would not want us to be euphoric," she said.
Asked about U.S. capacity to absorb Chinese exports, she said an orderly marketing agreement or a quota limitation on textiles should be negotiated.
On another subject, she predicted a "sluggish" economy for the United States this year and added that the projected budget deficit of about $30 billion "was based upon our expectation that the growth rate will be in the 2 to 2.5 percent range."