THE FEDERAL government and 47 states have enacted laws to curb what has become known as "child pornography." Before the late '70s most Americans did not realize that there was large-scale commerce in films and photographs depicting children in explicit sex acts. When the sordid facts became known, in media stories and at congressional hearings, public response was swift and strong.

This exploitation of children has noth with First Amendment rights or definitions of obscenity, redeeming social values or community standards. The federal statute, recently strengthened, does not even require a showing that such pictures are legally obscene, only that the defendant has produced or trafficked in material that visually depicts a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The offense is in the abuse of these children, who are assaulted, raped, paired with animals, relatives and partners of both sexes to produce pictures for the amusement and profit of sick adults.

While law enforcement officials in this country are making every effort to crack down on this trade -- and we do not minimize the extent of the problem -- production has been stepped up overseas, and imported material is still widely available here. And the source can be pinpointed. The Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations has been told by U.S. Customs officials that 85 percent of the child pornography imported into the country comes from two places: Holland and Denmark. Both countries are far more tolerant of pornography, even material of this nature, than this country is. But sending this filth through our mails and through our customs is in violation of our law, and it's an offense that's hard to detect.

Both Holland and Denmark are good friends of long standing. No doubt the lge majority of Dutch and Danes deplore this exploitation of children as sincerely as do most Americans. There is every reason to believe that these governments would want to help us enforce our laws. Sen. William Roth (R-Del.), chairman of the Senate investigations subcommittee, has written to Secretary of State George Shultz asking that diplomatic initiatives be explored with these and other countries to curb the flow of child porn materials to the United States. It's a good start, and it's in the interest of our foreign friends to respond.