BOEING EXECUTIVE PROMOTES IDEA OF A SEATTLE ROUND IN GATT TALKS

BOEING EXECUTIVE PROMOTES IDEA OF A SEATTLE ROUND IN GATT TALKS

The Boeing Co.'s international chief sees this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum as a springboard for a new round of global trade talks under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Lawrence W. Clarkson, Boeing corporate vice president for planning and international development, called for the U.S. government to seek a "Seattle round" of trade talks shortly after the conclusion of the current Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. Boeing is the largest U.S. exporter.The Uruguay Round, held under the auspices of GATT, the Geneva body that governs most world trade, is supposed to be concluded by Dec. 15, but key issues remain unsettled.

Speaking at a Port of Seattle seminar on trade with Japan, Mr. Clarkson said he believes the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group of 15 Pacific Rim trading partners could evolve into a regional powerhouse for elimination of trade barriers.

Such a group might tackle some of the thorniest problems that restrict trade across the Pacific, develop a consensus on how the trade barriers could be eliminated, then pursue those changes in full GATT negotiations, he said.

"The United States and U.S. industry have got to look beyond the Uruguay Round," he said. "There are issues such as possible GATT membership for China and Taiwan that will have to be decided. We already know of a number of issues that need to be discussed that aren't in the agreement wrapping up this GATT round."

Mr. Clarkson said he envisions the APEC trade-liberalization effort as the logical next step beyond today's battle over the North American Free Trade Agreement - a battle which he called the last hurrah for protectionists.

Russ Young, a Boeing spokesman, said Mr. Clarkson's views represent what Boeing sees as the potential for APEC. But he said the aerospace company isn't going to lock into any particular program before Thursday's arrival of President Clinton and U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor in Seattle.

Frank Shrontz, Boeing's chairman, laid out Boeing's broader position in a prepared commentary that says APEC should become a key vehicle for the easing of Pacific trade restrictions, Mr. Young said.

"There's a lot of talk that there's going to be a Seattle accord or a Seattle protocol at the conclusion of the APEC meetings," Mr. Young said. ''But the idea of a Seattle round of GATT talks is relatively new."

Aides to Mr. Kantor said Tuesday that it was impossible to comment on what new role the U.S. Trade Representative's office may see for APEC because many of its leaders are watching to see what happens with the Nafta.

"This (future role for APEC) is the kind of thing that we would expect people to speculate on, but it's something that you can't really nail down until you get everybody out there and start going over it," one aide who asked not to be identified said. "It's theoretical until then."

Still, Boeing's vision of APEC's potential appears to be in at least general agreement with that of President Clinton, who has said that the United States may turn to APEC as a vehicle to liberalize trade if the GATT talks fail.

Executives from U.S. software and biotechnology companies at the conference said they also see the need for a vehicle to help eliminate trade

barriers, protect intellectual property and attract investment.

But several Asian executives in Seattle for the APEC meetings privately said that they don't believe APEC should become the trade liberalization body Mr. Clarkson wants it to be.

"The Japanese want to be a bridge between the United States and Asians who are strongly opposed to making APEC into a political trade group, but even the Japanese would resist what Mr. Clarkson's proposing," said Philip Jones, a veteran Japanese consultant based in Seattle.

Mr. Jones said it's no secret that governments of several Asian countries already are uncomfortable with the importance assigned to APEC. Some are warning that APEC will become another tool for American domination of Pacific trade, he said.

"Countries in Southeast Asia are worried about the seemingly aggressive stance of the Clinton administration on APEC," he said. "They're not going to take turning it into another GATT."