French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing today called in effect for the United States to drop its controversial $5 a barrel subsidy for oil purchases on the European free market in Rotterdam.
During a meeting here with U.S. Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal, the French leader urged an end to "all practices that produce pertubations on the oil markets," according to the French presidential spokesman.
The French have been in the fore-front of a campaign to regulate the Rotterdam market, which is the largest free market on crude oil sold on a spot basis. They seized on the American decision last week to subsidize the purchase in Rotterdam of 200,000 barrels a day of heating oil for four months as a betrayal of Washington's Western partners in the energy field and as a perfect example of what is wrong with allowing Rotterdam to continue to operate freely.
Blumenthal said after today's 30-minute meeting that the $5 a barrel subsidy was not discussed. French officials indicated, however, that they felt Giscard's meaning was clear in the context of the general outcry in Europe over the issue. Some Americans said they interpreted the French president's action as an attack on Rotterdam speculative practices only.
Giscard's move today fit into an emerging pattern in which France seems to be trying to provide Western leadership in what Paris perceives as an absence of American initiatives on the energy issue.The French have been complaining for some time that the Carter administration has not been exercising leadership generally and Paris officials apparently feel that France should try to fill the gap.
The French announced today that they would present a four-point energy action program to the sunnit meeting next week in Strasbourg, France, of the nine leaders of the European Community.
Describing it as a program allowing for continued "sober" growth of West European economies, Elysee spokesmen said it was contained in a four-point memorandum to the other community members:
Placing a ceiling on oil imports and progressively reducing them over a long period.
Restoring order in the oil markets.
Energy conservation programs combined with the use of other forms of energy, especially nuclear.
Cooperation with the oil-exporting countries.
The Elysee said Giscard spent 45 minutes on the telephone discussing energy Thursday with West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
France and West Germany disagree on how to control the Rotterdam spot oil market for petroleum that is not tied up in long-term contracts. The French maintain this can be done through price controls, while the Germans question whether a lid can be placed on prices when the demand for oil outstrips the supplies offered for sale.
The French president also discussed cooperation between oil producers and consumers Thursday with the brother of Saudi King Khalid, Interior Minister Abd Al-Aziz Nayef.
Elysee sources denied there was any discussion of getting any additional special supplies from the world's leading oil exporter for France alone. That would be a violation of the spirit of the joint effort Giscard is preaching, Elysee officials said, noting that France could hardly criticize the $5 U.S. subsidy if it were trying to get a special deal for itself.
The French buy a third of their oil from Saudi Arabia under long-term state-to-state contracts thay bypass the major U.S. oil companies operating in Saudi Arabia.
Clifton Garvin, president of Exxon, said in a press conference here today that he is worried that oil-exporting nations will cut their production while the West is trying to reduce its consumption.
Western officials express confidence that the Saudis in particular are not interested in creating the kind of permanent Western economic crisis that Garvin's expression of concern seemed to imply.
But those officials say that the moderare oil-producing states like Saudi Arabia want proof from the West of serious conservation efforts before they will consider long-term commitments on oil supplies or prices. CAPTION: Picture, VALERY GISCARD D'ESTAING . . . seeks cooperation on energy