TALKS HERE THIS WEEK may pave the way toward resolving the three-year impasse on reviving the Inter-American Development Bank.
Treasury officials and representatives of Latin America's "big four" - Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela - are due to resume the talks today.A resolution to replenish the bank's resources is being drafted for consideration by the bank's 44 member nations late next week at the bank's annual meeting in Amsterdam.
Bank officials are cautiously hopeful that an agreement will be reached. It could bolster the bank's resources by as much as $25 billion and sharply reverse the agency's recent lending decline.
The key is how much additional control over the bank's lending Latin members will yield to the United States. The chances look good for a compromise that would give the U.S. director on the bank's board, if supported by one other director, the power to delay a loan the United States opposes for up to one year. The United States initially sought that power for a two-year period but has trimmed that to 15 months. The bank's Latin members had offered nine months.
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ALTHOUGH THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COMMISSION did not advocate higher fuel taxes - or any of the other specific budget deficit reductions it considered - it might have done so at one point, says a trucking industry official.
"It was a closer call than it seems like from the published report," insists Kenneth Simonson, chief economist and director of tax policy for the American Trucking Associations.
That group was one of many banding together to fight the earlier chorus of calls for raising gasoline and other fuel taxes, and perhaps levies on tobacco and alcohol, to cut the deficit.
Mr. Simonson thinks both NEC cochairmen, Democrat Robert Strauss and Republican Drew Lewis, would have offered fuel tax hikes as an option had President Bush not made clear he would reject them.
Since neither the commission's mainly Republican majority nor its Democratic minority recommended higher fuel taxes, Mr. Simonson thinks the odds now "are less than 50-50" that such a tax increase will come out of budget talks this year.
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U.S. AND CANADIAN SHIPBUILDERS have banded together to lobby their governments, but not for more money.
They want international shipbuilding subsidies ended and feel the issue should be included in the Uruguay Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, due to resume in April.
Joint letters from the Shipbuilders Council of America and the Canadian Maritime Industries Association to their governments argue that foreign construction subsidies "are as disruptive to the international commercial shipbuilding market as agricultural subsidies are to the food production market."
Subsidies have contributed to "extensive shipbuilding overproduction" that has "destabilized the relationship between demand and supply, artificially depressed ship prices and led to significant financial problems for the world's shipyards," the builders maintain.
They specifically cite European Community subsidies that they say can run as high as 26 percent and allow European yards to set prices below production costs.
Meanwhile, neither the United States or Canada is building a single merchant vessel.
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COAL PRODUCERS SOON MAY SHOW whether they are united or divided on acid rain control, the most critical issue the industry faces in Congress
Some light should be shed March 14 when the House Interior Committee's mining subcommittee will hold the first hearing this session on how power plant emission control proposals could affect coal output and marketing.
Key industry spokesmen say the industry is unified, but sources privately characterize the strategies being mapped out by high-sulfur and low-sulfur coal producers as muddled at best.
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who chairs the House Coal Caucus and the mining subcommittee, is said to be seeking a compromise plan that would gain industry-wide support, but no such bill has been drafted.
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THE GOVERNMENT'S RACKETEERING TRIAL AGAINST the Teamsters Union begins one week from today, but the parties continue to seek a pretrial settlement.
The union's general executive board met quietly in Washington this week to consider a second offer from the government to settle the case. But union officials said the board rejected this offer, as it had the first.
Union leaders are developing a "conceptual counterproposal" to show the government they are willing to negotiate. Even so, Teamsters officials say the gulf between the two sides is so wide that the case is likely to go to trial.