EC SAYS US PREOCCUPATION WITH NAFTA IMPERILS GATT

EC SAYS US PREOCCUPATION WITH NAFTA IMPERILS GATT

The European Community Monday set aside its ongoing internal differences and portrayed the United States and Japan as the major obstacles to a new world trade accord.

EC foreign ministers said a more active role by Washington and Tokyo is needed to secure an outline agreement by the end of November in order to meet a Dec. 15 deadline to complete the 7-year-old Uruguay Round negotiations designed to liberalize world trading rules.The ministers plan to meet in early December to agree on the community's tactics in what is supposed to be the final two weeks of the talks.

EC Trade Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan said there has been a lack of movement by the United States and Japan in the negotiations "essentially

because of the American preoccupation" with the North American Free Trade Agreement talks.

U.S. officials acknowledge there are political difficulties in accepting EC demands - particularly for textile tariff cuts. And with the Nafta vote in Congress expected to be very close, there is little enthusiasm in the Clinton administration for antagonizing lawmakers who are still uncommitted.

Japan has taken shelter behind the Nafta debate to delay offers on market access, according to the EC.

Sir Leon appealed to the United States to "re-engage urgently " in the GATT talks after the Nafta vote in Congress Nov. 17; that is two days after the deadline set for reaching an agreement on tariff cuts for industrial goods under GATT.

The ministers studiously avoided discussion of France's deep-seated objections to a farm subsidy accord with the United States and its demand to exclude movies and broadcasting from the GATT pact.

France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, gave his support to Sir Leon, whose negotiating tactics have been sharply criticized in Paris.

Sir Leon, who has clashed angrily with Mr. Juppe in the past, said he is now more optimistic about reaching agreement by Dec. 15 because there were no divisions among the EC member states.

Fears that Mr. Juppe would seek to rein in Sir Leon failed to materialize as France sought to end its damaging isolation in the community and ease the strains in its pivotal relationship with Germany.

"There is a greater degree of unanimity . . . though differences remain," said Douglas Hurd, Britain's foreign secretary. "There was very little emphasis by France on points of differences."

Sir Leon said the U.S. and Japanese failure to match the EC's offer on market access in the Uruguay Round is "the great disappointment" in the final weeks of the talks.

U.S. officials said, however, that in percentage terms the EC proposal would reduce tariffs by less than either the U.S. or the Japanese offer. Moreover, Brussels has shown great reluctance to reduce tariffs on natural resource products such as nonferrous metals, paper and wood products that are important to U.S. exporters.

Meanwhile, ministers failed to back the commission's proposal to grant substantial trade concessions to Moscow before the Russian general elections on Dec. 12.

Officials were meeting overnight to resolve differences to allow ministers to approve a new negotiating mandate for the commission today.