President Reagan reacted today to what he called the "outrage" of Poland's ban of the Solidarity trade union by moving to suspend the favored trade status Poland enjoys with the United States.
"The Polish military leaders and their Soviet backers have shown that they will continue to trample upon the hopes and aspirations of the majority of the Polish people," Reagan said in a radio address from the staff office at his mountaintop ranch near here. "America cannot stand idly by in the face of these latest threats of repression and acts of repression by the Polish government.
"I am, therefore, today directing steps to bring about the suspension of Poland's most-favored-nation tariff status as quickly as possible. This will increase the tariffs on Polish manufactured goods exported to the United States and thus reduce the quantities of these goods which have been imported in the past."
A senior administration official said the president would consult with Congress before suspending Poland's favored trading status, and thus avoid the possibility of a legal challenge that might be made if he takes the action unilaterally.
But Reagan and his advisers apparently believed that it was important to give an immediate and dramatic signal -- though perhaps symbolic in its immediate impact -- of U.S. displeasure with the action of the Polish parliament Friday in outlawing Solidarity and formally ending Poland's experiment in worker democracy, unique in a communist state. The Polish government action came in the 10th month of martial law under which most of Solidarity's leaders were imprisoned.
"There are those who will argue that the Polish government's action marks the death of Solidarity," Reagan said in his radio speech. "I don't believe this for a moment. Those who know Poland well understand that as long as the flame of freedom burns as brightly and intensely in the hearts of Polish men and women as it does today the spirit of Solidarity will remain a vital force in Poland."
Administration officials said the president reached his decision to act against Poland Friday, after he was informed during a luncheon meeting in San Diego with Mexican President-elect Miguel de la Madrid that Solidarity had been banned.
The Polish action had been anticipated, the U.S. official said. Reagan had planned to discuss economic issues in his weekly radio speech, but had expressed his strongly optimistic view of U.S. economic prospects at a speech in Long Beach, Calif., Friday morning. He plans to do so again Wednesday in a 7:30 p.m. speech from the Oval Office. The White House has asked the networks to televise the speech nationally as a news event.
The Wednesday speech, coming at a crucial time during the 1982 midterm election campaign, was described by White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes as a progress report on the economy.
Reagan's radio speech reflected his strong feelings about the Polish repression, which was the basis for economic sanctions he imposed against Poland last December and extended in June.
Reagan's action was largely symbolic in its immediate impact. It might increase tariffs in varying amounts on about $100 million of the $200 million in Polish goods imported annually into the United States. This theoretically could reduce the dollar volume of Polish products sold in this country.
The increases would be most significant on imports of Polish textiles, estimated at $20 million annually. Agricultural products, including such prime Polish exports as canned hams, would not be affected.
For practical purposes, the administration was limited in the action it could take against the Polish government. High-technology exports to Poland are banned already by the administration's previous sanctions, and the president did not want to limit agricultural exports to Poland because this would cause suffering among the Polish people. Nor did the administration want to call Polish loans into default, an action that would harm western bankers.
And the administration wants cooperation of U.S. allies in a common response to Polish repression when talks open in Madrid next month reviewing the 1975 Helsinki accords. U.S. allies, angered at the administration's insistence on maintaining sanctions against western firms supplying material for the Soviet natural gas pipeline to western Europe, have balked at taking a tough anti-Soviet stand at Madrid.
Administration officials said they hoped that the Polish crackdown on Solidarity might prompt the allies to change their minds.
Reagan's speech reflected his persistent anti-communism, expressed historically in his description of western nations as "free" and communist countries as "slave."
"Someone has said that when anyone is denied freedom, then freedom for everyone is threatened," he said. "The struggle in the world today for the hearts and minds of mankind is based on one simple question: Is man born to be free, or slave?
"In country after country, people have long known the answer to that question. We are free by divine right. We are the masters of our fate, and we create governments for our convenience. Those who would have it otherwise commit a crime and a sin against God and man."
Reagan ended his speech with an appeal to Americans, "including millions of Americans whose roots are in Poland," to pray for "an early return to a path of moderation and personal freedom in Poland."
Before going on the air, Reagan was asked to give a "voice level," and joked: "My fellow Americans, the leaders of the Polish government are a bunch of no good, lousy bums."
After the speech, the president and his wife went horseback riding at their ranch. He is to spend Sunday at Rancho del Cielo, 19 miles northwest of here, and fly to Dallas Monday for a political speech.