PARIS — U.S. Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III said today there is "good evidence" that the huge trade imbalances between the United States and its major trading partners are being reversed.
In a speech to trade and finance ministers from 24 leading industrialized countries, Baker said he is encouraged by the success of West Germany and Japan in boosting their imports.
He stressed, however, that the Tokyo and Bonn governments need to act quickly to stimulate their overall economic growth to make up for the slowdown in U.S. domestic demand for goods and services.
"We are now seeing good evidence that we have begun to reverse the external imbalances among the major industrial countries," Baker told the annual ministerial meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Imports Exceed Exports
He said imports by West Germany and Japan are now growing faster than their exports. Even so, he said the U.S. trade deficit--which reached a record $166 billion last year--was falling more slowly than the Reagan Administration had hoped.
The U.S. government is scheduled to release March merchandise trade figures on Thursday.
"The question for the world economy is: If the United States cannot continue to contribute the lion's share of world growth, then who will take up the slack?" Baker said.
He pointed out Japan and West Germany as two key countries that "now have ample scope" for expanding their economies.
Prepared to Act
In his remarks to the meeting, West Germany's economic minister, Martin Bangemann, said Bonn is prepared to take action if its economy falters further.
Bangemann stressed, however, that recent sluggishness in the German economy is due mainly to a sharp fall in the exchange value of the U.S. dollar. He said the government has no current plans to take new measures to stimulate growth.