The Agency for International Development returned $28 million to the Treasury yesterday as its intial response to President Reagan's directive to eliminate wasteful government programs.

At a short ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, AID Administrator M. Peter McPherson handed Reagan an oversize "check" representing the funds AID has cut from programs in 11 countries. A small audience comprised mostly of reporters and photographersj looked on.

Reagan praised the AID, and said that it was more normal late in a fiscal year for any government department that discovered extra cash on hand "to rush out and buy new furniture." The president and Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. looked on approvingly as McPherson explained that AID saved the $28 million by eliminating programs that were not working.

McPherson said the nations that lost the aid programs did not lodge protests with the AID. He said there was mutual agreement that these programs were not successful.

The $28 million savings in AID's $1.7 billion budget results from eliminating programs in Haiti, Bangladesh, Thailand, Upper Volta, Syria, Guyana, Portugal, Costa Richa, Liberia, El Salvador and Peru.McPherson said savings also would be made by reducing AID's Washington staff by 10 percent.

McPherson said no one doubts that Haiti, which lost three programs, needs foreign aid, but that some programs there have been ineffective. No new aid funds will be allocated to Haiti until a more effective operation is estalbished there, he said.

Haiti will lose a project desinged to help introduce improved technology, a project to increase production of a better grade of coffee and assistance to the Haitian Bar Association to help provide legal assistance to indigents. McPherson said the bar association did not support the legal services program.

Other programs eliminated included a silk production project in Thailand and a project to expand occupational training in El Salvador that required counterpart funding by the Salvadoran government. That government has other priorities on its funds, and "under present circumstances the project is inappropriate," McPherson said.

Savings of several more million dollars in AID programs are expected to be identified in the near future, McPherson said. CAPTION: AID's M. Peter McPherson with President Reagan and the "check" for $28 million, representing program cuts in 11 countries. By Margaret Thomas--The Washington Post