US IMPORTERS TO LOOK ELSEWHERE

US IMPORTERS TO LOOK ELSEWHERE

Romania's decision last week to repudiate its most-favored-nation status will force some U.S. importers to put on a different pair of shoes.

In a surprise move, Romania said it no longer wanted to keep the favorable U.S. tariff treatment it has received on its exports since 1975 in return for liberalization of its emigration policies.That treatment meant tariffs on Romanian products are the same as applied to goods from non-communist countries. The Jackson-Vanik amendment of the 1974 U.S. trade law conditions such treatment for communist nations on their emigration policies.

Importers, who have for the last dozen years bought from Romania under a favorable tariff schedule (averaging 5 percent), will have to source elsewhere, said Eugene Milosh, president of the American Association of Exporters and Importers.

In fact, Mr. Milosh himself was wearing Rockport shoes made in Romania at the time he spoke. Reebok International Ltd., Canton, Mass., owns the Rockport brand.

Men's suits, children's clothing, glassware, chemicals, steel and ball bearings are among the products that will see tariff increases July 3, when the current schedule expires.

Mr. Milosh estimated that imports would decline about $250 million a year when the tariffs increase to a range of about 25 percent to 70 percent ad valorem. Imports totaled about $775 million last year.

Romanian steel, particularly plate steel, is of sizable importance to the U.S. steel market said Erwin Klein, vice chairman of the board at Steelinter U.S.A., an importer. He said Romania might want to keep the volume of its steel exports at present levels so as not to see its quota decline.

While Mr. Milosh said that importers of Romanian consumer goods will easily be able to find alternate sources for their products, Mr. Klein said that the tight market in steel worldwide might make finding other sources more difficult.

Romania supplies about 1.5 percent of the U.S. steel plate market, Mr. Klein said.

Romania is said to have grown weary of the constant pressure from Congress to improve its human rights policies.