HAS TRADE BILL CHANGED ENOUGH TO SUIT REAGAN?

HAS TRADE BILL CHANGED ENOUGH TO SUIT REAGAN?

Administration officials, lawmakers and members of the private sector all agree the giant trade bill crafted by a House-Senate conference is much closer to what President Reagan wants than the original legislation.

The question is: Has the bill moved far enough to dodge the presidential veto that - as White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Friday - may await it?Administration officials say much remains to done but they hold out hope that the most objectionable provisions will be deleted before it goes to the president for a signature.

They say they would recommend a presidential veto on the current form of the bill. What's more, they say the votes are there to uphold a veto.

It depends on what the final bill looks like. But as it stands now, if the bill stayed the way it is, I think we could sustain a veto, said one administration official.

House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, said a presidential veto would be a foolish thing. He said he has not taken a head count, but he believes the votes are there to override a veto.

I think we will (override), yes, but I don't anticipate a veto, he told reporters.

Both the bills passed the House and Senate by more than the two-thirds required to sustain a veto. But several senators voted yes but, meaning that they voted yes in the Senate but would switch unless changes were made.

After the stock market crash in October, 38 Republican senators sent a letter to the president saying they would not support a protectionist bill.

The trade bill conference co-chairmen, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, both said they hoped to avoid a veto and that the bill warranted president approval.

I heard (the veto threats) before . . . . But if the president doesn't attach his name, does he think we can go another two years without a trade policy? said Rep. Rostenkowski.

It's a good bill and a positive bill on trade, said Sen. Bentsen.

But administration sources say the following provisions are still very

troublesome:

* A provision calling for sanctions on Toshiba Machine Co. and its parent Toshiba Corp.

* Mandatory retaliation against nations violating existing trade agreements with the United States.

* Advance notification by employers for plant closings and large layoffs.

* A provision on foreign investment disclosure and registration.

* The transfer of authority to impose sanctions under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974-from the White House to the Office of the U.S. trade representative.

Despite this lengthy list, administration officials were surprisingly optimistic.

It's still an ongoing process. There are a number of issues still open and there's a lot of confusion on the hill and within the administration as to what's going to be in the final bill. We hear talk that the plant closings will be dropped, for instance, said one administration official.

One reason for the confusion is that opportunities still exist to remove provisions from the bill. Sen. Bentsen has the Senate's blessing to bring any provisions from the bill to a vote of the Senate conferees.

Were this to happen, the foreign investment restrictions, for example, would almost certainly be taken out.

Sen. Bentsen seemed to suggest a willingness to remove portions of the bill not under the jurisdiction of himself or Rep. Rostenkowski when he said last week, if we took the part (of the bill) handled by (the Senate) Finance (Committee) and (House) Ways and Means, I think the president would sign it.

The president has criticized the bill almost from its inception and last week he pointed out several provisions he said could bring a veto of the whole bill.

He cited the plant closings provision; the Gephardt amendment, which would have mandated retaliation against unfair trade practices, and the foreign investment provision.

Of those three provisions, the president can claim a win, a loss and a tie: Gephardt was defeated, plant closings remains and a watered down version of the foreign investment provision has yet to be decided.

Several congressional aides believe the president would not veto the bill solely on plant closings because, they say, the provision has been diluted and

because it would be difficult for the president to publicly oppose giving workers early warning when their jobs are to be terminated.

But several administration officials point out that the president need not say he is vetoing the bill because of plant closings.

He can say what he always says, that the bill is protectionist, that it is anti-growth and that it will cost jobs, one administration official said.

William T. Archey, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said his organization will not decide on the bill until it has seen formal language, but suggested he was leaning in the direction of an endorsement.

This bill is not the dragon people thought it might be and it is not a substanial change from current law, he said.