The United States is gaining, not losing, "competitive ground" in the global marketplace, a leading business spokesman said Thursday.

The "vast majority" of U.S. manufacturers, said Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, believe they are becoming more internationally competitive.Separately, however, an official from a congressional investigating agency sharply criticized U.S. government export programs.

Allan Mendelowitz, director of international trade at the General Accounting Office, said the programs lack a cohesive strategy or a set of priorities.

The NAM, Mr. Jasinowski said, projects a nearly 8 percent rise in U.S. exports of goods and services this year, and, if there is an economic ''pickup" in Europe, the advance could be 10 percent or more.

The advance, the NAM estimated, would bring the U.S. global balance in merchandise and services trade this year to near equilibrium.

The NAM projects a roughly $6 billion deficit in goods and services trade for this year, as measured in 1987 dollars, down nearly $12 billion from last year and $45 billion lower than in 1990.

Helping support this upbeat forecast was an NAM survey last week of 80 member companies. More than a third expect that their exports this year will be "significantly higher" than in 1991, the NAM found. Only 5 percent of the companies anticipate lower exports.

High-tech products, such as computers and other electronic items, are leading the export advance, Mr. Jasinowski said.

Manufacturers' optimism, he said, extends through the 1990s. Many companies, he said, anticipate an "extraordinary" export performance this decade.

Manufacturers, said Mr. Jasinowski, are scoring 4 percent a year productivity

gains and expect them to continue.

U.S. companies, he said, have reduced not only "blue-collar" but also ''white-collar" and overhead costs. He also cited product "quality"


Further helping, he said, is a favorable U.S. dollar exchange rate and an ''increasing focus" by U.S. manufacturers on foreign markets.

The NAM's views were buttressed by John Macomber, U.S. Export-Import Bank chairman, who told an export conference here that "the United States is positioned to hit the ball out of the park . . . We're truly competitive in many manufactured products where we weren't 10, or even three or four years ago."

But Mr. Mendelowitz, whose job is to assess government efficiency, told the conference sponsored by the American Foreign Service Association that the government seriously misallocates its aid to exporters.

Agriculture, he said, accounts for roughly 10 percent of U.S. merchandise exports, but gets three-fourths of the government's $2.7 billion a year in direct exporter funding.

One Agriculture Department program alone, he said, spends more money a year than the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration is budgeted.