WASHINGTON -- From Argentina to Zimbabwe, the Clinton administration is accusing countries around the globe of erecting unfair trade barriers that U.S. officials contend are costing billions of dollars in lost sales for American exporters.
In an effort to demonstrate it is acting to lower America's record trade deficits, the administration on Friday accused 55 trading partners, including major ones such as the European Union and Japan and tiny ones such as Uzbekistan, of unfair practices.
''Our goal is the creation of an open and fair world economy, which will support higher-wage jobs in the United States and enhance prosperity for American workers, farmers and businesses,'' U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said.
The administration's allegations were contained in a 434-page ''Foreign Trade Barriers'' report that said American manufacturers, farmers and service companies were being discriminated against.
From the long list of problems cited in the annual report, the administration will select at the end of April a smaller number of ''priority'' countries for investigations that could lead to filing of cases with the World Trade Organization.
''Vigorous monitoring and enforcement of trade agreements is a top priority of this administration,'' Barshefsky said. ''Full implementation is critical to securing the full benefits of trade agreements for the United States.''
The country drawing the largest attention, as measured by the number of pages in the report, was Japan, with 60 pages expressing disappointment over its slow pace toward eliminating ''unnecessary, costly and excessive regulations that cover about 40 percent of all economic activity in Japan.''
The 15-nation European Union was second in terms of the number of complaint pages at 34. China took up 17 pages in the 2000 edition.
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