CREEPING SOVIET TENTACLES

THE SOVIET UNION IS BUSY on the economic front. The 92 member nations that make up the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the United States in particular, appear not to want the U.S.S.R. in their trade liberalization family. But, by the time the new eighth round of GATT discussions draws to a close some four years from now, the big picture in trade may take on a new dimension that could include the Soviets being asked into the GATT fold.

True, Western powers are frigid about Moscow's request to participate as an observer in the negotiations. But Mikhail Gorbachev's response to this seems to be a big "So what!" as he pursues full membership in GATT for his country.Indeed, the Soviet leader already has begun to make his country indispensable to world trade:

Moscow has agreed to cut oil exports to the West by 100,000 barrels a day to help stabilize oil prices - a move that pleases the 13 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, not to mention U.S. oil producers and legislators from Southwestern states.

Moscow is easing its way into the Pacific - a region fast becoming a formidable player in global trade - by winning fishing leases and shore facilities with South Pacific nations. (U.S. fishing policies do not recognize these nations' claims to tuna stocks in their 200-mile economic zones.)

Moscow is aggressively courting China's emerging entrepreneurs, while keeping close watch on how Peking is faring with its economic reforms.

The Soviet leadership is examining possibilities" for joint ventures with the United States, Western Europe and Japan, following a round-table discussion with business executives from all three regions.

And internally, the Kremlin has shuffled around its Foreign Ministry to accommodate new issues like economic ties.

It will be interesting to see what the Soviets bring to the character of international trade. It also will be interesting to see how two military archrivals deal with each other on a different front.

After all, in this business of cross-border commerce there is room for as many players as there are nations.

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