FATE OF GATT NEGOTIATIONS TIED TO KANTOR-BRITTAN MEETING

FATE OF GATT NEGOTIATIONS TIED TO KANTOR-BRITTAN MEETING

In less than a year's time Mickey Kantor and Leon Brittan have gotten to know each other very well.

The senior trade negotiators from the United States and European Community have had roughly a dozen meetings since March, but none more important than the sessions they will hold today and Tuesday.Those negotiations on tariff cutting, steel, agriculture and rules that govern global trade will go a long way toward determining the course of the Uruguay Round of trade talks.

"We are not quite close enough to bare all . . . but a lot of cards will be shown and we'll discuss how the final package will look," said one U.S. official.

A slate of controversial issues remain to be resolved before a Dec. 15 deadline - including recently announced U.S. demands for longer import protection for textile producers - but the pillars of any Uruguay Round deal remain a resolution of the outstanding agriculture controversy and an agreement on tariff cutting, also known as market access.

On both these crucial issues, a deal involving the 111 nations involved in the talks through their membership in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is possible only if Washington and Brussels reach accord.

France has consistently warned that without changes to the U.S.-EC "Blair House" pact on farm subsidy cuts Paris would block community approval of any final Uruguay Round deal.

Last week, senior U.S. trade and agriculture officials conceded the pact will be discussed at the Kantor-Brittan meeting and during discussions between senior agriculture officials.

Despite political opposition in the United States to any further discussion of Blair House, U.S. officials say it would only be "logical" for them to consider minor changes to pact if the EC market access offer would lead to a significant increase in U.S. exports of say, corn, to the community.

On Friday, however, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the United States will not renegotiate the Blair House.

Mr. Christopher spoke in Seattle at the end of ministerial meetings of the 17-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group.

The principal EC demand on market access is for reduction by half in peak tariffs (over 15 percent) on some 110 product categories - mainly textiles and apparel. The United States is pressing for Brussels to eliminate tariffs on a handful of natural resource products particularly wood and paper products, nonferrous metals and scientific instruments.

Having won precious support from the textile industry for the Nafta and needed the votes of lawmakers from textile-producing states to gain congressional approval of the Uruguay Round, there is no chance of the United States conceding to EC demands.

One U.S. official said unequivocally there will be no offer to the EC this week on textile tariff peaks.

There will also be no steel accord at this meeting because the United States will not accept an EC demand that existing dumping and countervailing duty orders on EC steel be stricken down.

Likewise, the community is not going to eliminate its tariffs on nonferrous metals or wood products because of domestic opposition to such moves.

There will be "a lot of nodding and winking" in Washington this week, but a fuzzy picture of how a Uruguay Round package might look will become a little bit clearer.