BRUSSELS — European leaders on Tuesday warned the United States and Japan they will take retaliatory trade action unless the two countries modify their protectionist leanings.
The European Council--comprised of the foreign ministers of the 12-member European Economic Community--ended a two-day meeting by publicly telling Japan the group is prepared to impose 100% tariffs on a range of key Japanese imports to the community.
No official European list was released, but officials indicated that the items include color televisions, desk-top computers, power tools, compact disc players, amplifiers, electronic organs, video recorder parts, digital audio tape recorders and microwave ovens.
Council President Leo Tindemans of Belgium told a news conference that community officials also have been ordered to monitor various trade proposals under consideration by the U.S. Congress.
"We are very concerned in case they adopt (protectionist) measures," he said. "It would be very harmful to us.
"If the U.S. took such actions, we would have to act within our rights," he said, making clear this meant increased tariffs on U.S. exports to the community, also known as the Common Market.
However, he said the community is anxious not to sharpen current negotiations on trade and first would focus on lobbying against harmful measures.
The community is comosed of Belgium, France, West Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain, Ireland, Denmark Greece, Spain and Portugal.
The Common Market unveiled a two-pronged plan to deal with Japan, with which it is negotiating to curb a soaring $21 billion trade deficit. Tindemans called it "an important political signal" to Tokyo and warned that the community would implement it if necessary.
However, he said the community "is hopeful there will be a market opening, not the reverse."
Conference sources said the Europeans hoped that publicizing the possible sanctions would persuade powerful Japanese electronics exporters to pressure the Japanese government into action.
European officials claim that Japan is ruthlessly exploiting the European Economic Community's relatively light trade barriers while keeping its own doors tightly closed to the market's exports.
One part of the plan would enable the community to unilaterally increase tariffs on a range of major Japanese electronic products unless Japan opens up its markets to Europe, officials said.
The other would call for 100% duties on any items European officials perceived as being diverted from the U.S. market since the United States imposed 100% tariffs on some Japanese electronics products April 17, charging that Japan was dumping semiconductors at below-cost prices.