EC COMMISSIONER SAYS HONG KONG SHOULDN'T FEAR CHANGES AFTER 1992

EC COMMISSIONER SAYS HONG KONG SHOULDN'T FEAR CHANGES AFTER 1992

Fears of a Fortress Europe after 1992 are much exaggerated, a senior European Community official maintains, arguing it would not be in the community's interests.

Frans Andriessen, vice president of the EC Commission, told a press conference: "The EC belongs to the 21st century; fortresses belong to the Middle Ages. It is not in our interest to create a closed economic space

because we depend on trade."Mr. Andriessen, who left Thursday for Japan and talks with officials there about car exports, said the EC has put forward proposals on promoting free trade in the Uruguay Round forum.

That grouping of world nations is working under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the international body that governs most world trade, to improve the trade environment.

"How could we close off the free flow of goods and services in this age?" Mr. Andriessenasked in a speech last week to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. "With the creation of a single market, Hong Kong will have access to the community as a whole" in the same way as any other entity.

He suggested that Hong Kong textiles, garments and other products - and presumably those of other countries - would have "unlimited" access. Textiles and garments are now strictly regulated by quotas under the Multi- Fibre Arrangement, another arm of GATT.

"The effect is that you will operate in a completely open market without frontiers, without red tape, without bureaucracy," the commissioner said.

In anticipation of the 1992 single market, the EC intends to open an office here to help with any transition problems and handle promotional activities. This also "shows our confidence in Hong Kong," he said.

Many Asian exporters have expressed concern about the potential for protectionism from a united Europe. A recent burst of anti-dumping charges by EC countries against producers of a variety of goods hasn't eased those fears.

Mr. Andriessen, however, insisted that such things are "an unavoidable element of free trade." The EC opposes any form of protectionism but must investigate members' complaints.

The commissioner, who is on a fact-finding tour of Asia, said the changes in Eastern Europe are likely to create a gap between political and economic reform. Conversion into market economies "will take time," he said, but he urged all Western countries to assist in the process.