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Israel Ponders on Objecting to British Plan to Raise Import Duty

Informed sources said here today that Israel has not yet decided on whether to raise before a special committee of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) its objections to the British plan to impose a 15 percent surcharge on imports.

The British decided to do so as part of a crash effort by Britain’s new Labor Government to cope with Britain’s rapidly growing international trade imbalance. The GATT Council held a special session on the problem and named a 12-member special committee to cope with it. The surcharge plan has evoked threats from countries exporting to Britain to retaliate with similar surcharges on British exports to them.

Israel did not participate in the GATT Council discussions and is not one of the 12 nations named to the special committee, mainly because of Israel’s relatively small volume of trade with Britain. However, because GATT proceedings are unusually informal, Israel might decide to spell out its position before the special committee, though for the time being, Israel has no desire to become involved in a controversy involving much larger interests.

Israel opposes such unilateral measures as the surcharge plan and will therefore join in efforts to convince Britain to show moderation. However, Israel also reportedly feels that such alternatives as imposing quotas on imports would not be any less damaging to countries exporting to Britain. It will be one of the assignments of the special GATT committee, which is to start talks in December, to find alternatives acceptable to both Britain and supplying countries.

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