WASHINGTON REPORT \ KANTOR'S BATTLE AGAINST BRIBERY

Don't expect to hear much more about Mickey Kantor's plan to fight bribery and corruption abroad with threats of trade sanctions.

Mr. Kantor did not get Cabinet approval for his proposal, which he revealed two weeks ago. When word got around, the reviews were not favorable, and the idea was dismissed by the administration.On the other hand, Mr. Kantor has received applause from all directions for his effort to press France, Germany and others to discourage bribes as a part of doing business in developing countries. These nations have been slow to implement the kind of anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws on the books in the United States for 20 years.

Mr. Kantor wants to use the Section 301 trade law to penalize countries whose tolerance of bribery undermines U.S. efforts at winning foreign contracts. He suggested the law may allow that already.

Bribery has always been a law enforcement issue. Maybe Mr. Kantor can revive his Section 301 idea if he gets his wish to be attorney general in a new Clinton administration.

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WITH BACKSTAGE negotiations well under way, a new export controls bill may be taken up this week by the House International Relations Committee's economic policy and trade panel.

''We have everything in place'' to put a bill to a vote, says Rep. Toby Roth, R-Wis., the subcommittee chairman. He flatly predicts a new export controls law.

The bill reflects months of consultation between congressional committees and the Clinton administration. Only a couple of issues were unresolved by late last week.

The new bill will spell out inter-agency procedures for managing export controls, while tightening sanctions against terrorist nations. Statutory guidelines assuring faster export licensing decisions also are likely to be included.

The bill, says Paul Freedenberg, a trade consultant, is relatively non-controversial. It is not expected to address controls on encryption technology. Mr. Freedenberg gives 3-to-1 odds for passage, much better than a few months ago. Rep. Roth, he says, has been doing ''all the right things'' to develop consensus.

There has been no export control law since October 1994.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department is expected to publish this week or next its long-awaited new export control regulations, the first top-to-bottom revision since Cold War days. The new regs, say Commerce officials, will simplify the licensing system.

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THE HOUSE Ways and Means Committee this week begins hearings aimed at replacing the current federal income tax structure - but not with the flat income tax favored by many top Republicans.

Committee Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, believes it is time to ''pull the income tax out by its roots and throw it away so it can never grow back.'' After initially supporting a national retail sales tax to replace it, he now is considering a value-added tax as an alternative.

This tax, common in Europe, is levied at each stage of production. Rep. Archer favors making it ''border-adjustable'' so it would be assessed on imports but not exports.

Hearings Wednesday and Thursday will take a critical look at the Internal Revenue Service, another Archer candidate for replacement. The hearings resume later this month and run monthly until fall.

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CHARLES HUNNICUTT, the Transportation Department's new assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs, had to spend the first few minutes of his maiden appearance before a Senate panel apologizing. Profusely.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who sits on the Senate's aviation subcommittee, said she was angry at Mr. Hunnicutt for not returning her phone calls or answering her requests for a personal meeting.

Mr. Hunnicutt has been on the job about six weeks, during which time the United States signed an ''open skies'' accord with Germany, battled Japan over air cargo issues, and tentatively relaunched informal discussions with Britain.

No sooner had Mr. Hunnicutt settled in as the panel's first witness than he began his mea culpa, assuring the senator he would correct his oversight at her ''earliest possible convenience.'' Sen. Hutchison seemed mollified. Then she left.

Sen. Hutchison had held up Mr. Hunnicutt's nomination to the post because she was unhappy that Dallas-Fort Worth has not received more service to Heathrow in the U.S. aviation talks with Britain.

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THERE COULD be another maritime supporter in Congress next year. Chip Pickering, former maritime, transportation and telecommunications aide to Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., placed first among nine Republicans in a primary for the seat held by retiring Rep. Sonny Montgomery, D-Miss. Mr. Pickering got 27 percent of the vote and meets college administrator Bill Crawford in an April 2 run-off.

There won't be a Democratic Party run-off. Attorney John Arthur Eaves Jr. got over 50 percent of the votes and faces the GOP winner.

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