JAPANESE INITIATIVE

AS NEGOTIATORS STRUGGLE to revive the Uruguay Round of world trade talks, hopeful signs are emerging.

Last week, Ray McSharry, the European Community's farm commissioner, outlined a plan to EC colleagues that would restructure agriculture policy and

cut subsidies paid to community farmers. Meanwhile, speculation persists that Japan soon will ease its ban on rice imports. An announcement could come this month when leaders of the world's seven industrialized nations meet in London for their annual summit. Failure to modify protectionist farm programs halted the Uruguay Round talks last December.None of this, however, should be taken to mean that change will come easily. More than 50,000 Japanese farmers protested in Tokyo Monday against lifting the rice ban. The McSharry proposal also is likely to draw a strong reaction from French farmers.

The Japanese can take a symbolic first step in the trade talks by opening their rice market this month. That may give EC leaders the political courage they need to follow through with their own reforms.