A TIME Symposium: View of America: Down and Out or Up and Punching

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View of America: Down and Out or Up and Punching?

On Aug. 14, the U.S. was a world champion boxer taking punishment in the corner of the ring. On Aug. 15, by one movement, it had gained the middle of the ring and room for maneuver —a true heavyweight able to dictate the fight. But will its legs stand the next hard round?

WITH this vigorous analogy, Sir Reay Geddes, chairman of Britain's Dunlop Holdings, a huge, diversified rubber concern, summed up many Europeans' views of President Nixon's new economic program and its impact on other countries. Sir Reay was one of 27 top European businessmen who returned to their offices and reported to their governments last week the opinions they had formed during TIME'S Report on America News Tour. These economic leaders, brought to the U.S. by TIME, met and questioned many policymakers, including Treasury Secretary John Connally, Secretary of State William P. Rogers, Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills, and Senators Mike Mansfield, Hugh Scott, Hubert Humphrey, Edward Kennedy, Henry Jackson and Jacob Javits. The businessmen then spent a morning discussing with TIME editors and correspondents their conclusions about the future.


Most of the guests were deeply and fearfully convinced that if the U.S. does not soon remove the import surcharge and other restrictive trade barriers, its trading partners will retaliate with similar measures. Some argued that until the surcharge is scuttled, the world will not find an effective solution to its monetary problems. All agreed that moves made in the next three or four months are crucial, because they will determine whether tensions rise or fall. But the Europeans' fears were soothed somewhat by their interviews with American political and business leaders.

"Those people whom we saw seemed sincerely to understand that if no solution is reached by, say, the end of January, the continuing uncertainty may trigger a trade war," said Count René Paul Boël, of Belgium's giant Solvay chemical company. "Nobody wants a trade war, so I consider that there is a willingness on both sides of the Atlantic to push trade and monetary negotiations as fast as possible. I feel there is a real possibility of bilateral or other negotiations being opened on the subject of revaluation of currencies."

Gerrit A. Wagner, of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, agreed with Count Boel, but warned: "The U.S. means business. This is no flash in the pan. I believe the Europeans should realize that the trade and monetary initiatives taken by the U.S. are irreversible for a long time to come. We can argue about the manner in which they are being done. We cannot argue about the direction in which this country has decided to go. We had better ask ourselves how we can live with this."

Dr. Alfred Schaefer, of the Union Bank of Switzerland, echoed that emphasis: "The U.S. has thrown a stone in the pond of international trade and financial relations. But all of us cannot just lie back and watch what has happened. We have to work together quite fast. If we do not, the waves provoked by the stone could be quite dangerous for the world's economic and financial structures."

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