Washington — President-elect Reagan kept Bill Brock waiting a long time before naming him special trade representative. Republican conservatives wanted Mr. Brock to dangle awhile, remembering his role in withholding party funds from their fight against the Panama Canal treaties.
But the moderate Republican leader showed no impatience through the long transition weeks. All reports were giving him the nod for the Cabinet- level job last held by Democrat Reuben Askew, but Mr. Reagan withheld the word until just before the inauguration.
Brock had been patient as Republican National Committee chairman since 1977, putting together a unified election drive largely credited for the GOP's big gains last November. A former congressman and US senator from Tennessee, Brock got the House, Senate, and presidential campaigns to agree on themes that minimized the old conservative-moderate split. Soft Democratic seats were targeted, GOP candidates recruited and trained. For the scope and style of his achievement, experts call Brock one of the "greats" in political party leadership.
His new job -- the same one given former Democratic National Committee chief Robert Strauss by President Carter -- will again test his patience.
As special trade representative, Brock will negotiate tough issues like the levels of Japanese auto imports, multifiber textile agreements, and farm trade. Reagan policies in these areas are still unset as the administration readies on the line of scrimmage for the new four-year game.
Brock's docket will be full. On Feb. 9 European trade leaders will visit Washington. US specialty- steel makers want some warning system to protect them. The European Community, just expanded with the entry of Greece, soon will add two more countries -- displacing traditional US exports and affecting others with EC subsidies.
One Brock task expected to take at least three or four years: untangling barriers to trade -- from special airport ground service fees to data processing regulations for international data transmission -- that grew in place as world trade service costs soared from $85 billion to $300 billion in the last decade.