ARE THE UNITED STATES and the European Community ganging up on Japan?

In two cases now, the United States and the EC appear to be joining to force changes in Japanese trading practices. In the past, the Reagan administration has scrupulously avoided any appearance of joint U.S.-EC Japan- bashing.The United States, however, is supporting an EC complaint in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade against Japanese import curbs on wines and other alcoholic beverages. The United States and the EC share essentially the same goals, say U.S. officials.

The United States meanwhile is pressing Japan to agree to new rules to cut back subsidized export credits. The proposed rules are fashioned after an EC suggestion.

And while the Reagan administration pressed Japan to reduce its machine tool exports to the United States, it seems unlikely, despite earlier statements, to demand similar cutbacks from Germany and Switzerland.

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HOUSE DEMOCRATS plan to reintroduce in January the wide-ranging trade bill the House passed this year over President Reagan's objections that it was kamikaze legislation.

The Democrats will go a step further and dub the bill H.R. 3. (In the last Congress, it was H.R. 4800). The only two bills due to get higher numerical priority - H.R. 1 and H.R. 2 - will be measures vetoed this year by Mr. Reagan.

The Democrats' move, symbolic though it is, comes in the face of speculation that next year House Democrats will soften some of their more controversial trade proposals of last summer.

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WASHINGTON TRANSPORTATION CIRCLES say that Sen. Mark Andrews, R-N.D., soon may go to work in the railroad area. Gossip is that Sen. Andrews, who was defeated for re-election, has talked about taking over as chief lobbyist for Union Pacific Corp. after his term ends. There also is some speculation he may decide to represent coal and captive shipper interests in the upcoming rail reregulation debate.

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SPEAKING OF REREGULATION, government and industry officials are holding informal meetings aimed at making sure an anticipated move to reregulate the airlines does not extend to other modes.

Informal working groups aimed at blocking expansion of such a move to the railroad and trucking industries are meeting at the Department of Transportation from time to time and the attendance list reads like a who's who of the coalition that moved to deregulate the industries in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

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THE CONTROVERSY OVER air bags will resurface before the new Congress convenes next year.

The outgoing Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, John Danforth, R-Mo., shortly will hold hearings that will focus on passive restraint rules proposed by DOT two years ago. Those rules require that air bags, automatic seat belts or energy-absorbing interiors be installed in all 1990 model cars.

Sen. Danforth is quite upset about DOT's tentative decision to permit Ford Motor Co. to install air bags only on the driver's side. He contends that will significantly reduce auto safety.

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AIRPORT OPERATORS are so adamantly opposed to federal regulation of local restrictions on airport flight numbers, scheduling and noise levels that they'll walk away from federal aid if necessary, an industry official says.

The Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year expressed concern about the growing number of local restrictions on aircraft considered too noisy by local residents and suggested a national policy on the access issue.

Although there's been considerable confusion over exactly what the FAA has in mind and what it ultimately intends to do by way of regulation, airport interests continue to believe the agency may threaten to end federal grants to renegade airports to force compliance with Washington's plans for expansion of the nation's air travel system.

Charles Barclay, executive vice president of the American Association of Airport Executives, says the money threat wouldn't work because the airports with local community noise problems are among the biggest and busiest airports and the most able to finance themselves completely.

If they're restricted, they simply won't participate in federal grant programs, he maintains.

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT for a decision on whether to renew the U.S. maritime agreement with Brazil that expires Dec. 31.

There have been many complaints about Brazil's restrictive measures on cargo routing, and U.S. officials in recent years have been reluctant to extend the agreement for longer than 12 months at a time.

Brazil, like other Latin American countries, is heavily promoting its merchant fleet and uses cargo preference systems extensively to do so.

U.S. officials will meet their Brazilian opposite numbers early in

December, sources say, for what could be a last-chance effort at renewal.

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ACTION ON MINE LABOR LAW? The American Mining Congress is concerned about that possibility in the Senate next year. The concern reflects remarks by Under Secretary of Labor Dennis Whitfield at a recent meeting co-sponsored by the trade association. The group reported that he said Democratic control of the Senate will result in a major resurgence of congressional interest in job safety, workers' health issues and other labor-management problems, including a tough reformation of the National Labor Relations Act.

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A BURLINGTON NORTHERN INC. holiday invitation begins:

'Tis the season to be jolly

In spite of all the voters' folly

So with gladness or depression

Let's all toast the coming session.

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