West seeks economic unity. Bonn summit may have better chance than previous ones of coordinating US and European policies.
Bonn — Summits often end with leaders promising to coordinate economic policies so the attending nations can enjoy roughly equal levels of sustainable economic growth and low inflation. But there are signs here that the goal of economic convergence is a bit closer than in earlier years as President Reagan and other leaders of Western industrial nations engaged in presummit bilateral talks Thursday. A key reason convergence is possible: The US economy seems to be slowing to a pace Europe could more easily match while the gap between summit nations' inflation rates has narrowed.
Having the major economies operating at about the same pace, called convergence, would offer several benefits, experts say. It would dampen the wide swings in currency values that upset world trade. And it could distribute the benefits of economic growth more widely, especially in Europe, where unemployment remains a much larger problem than in the United States.
``I think we'll get into an era of greater convergence of policies'' as the economic disturbances of the 1960s and '70s recede, US Federal Reserve Board member Henry C. Wallich said this week.
But the summit countries are far from moving in either economic or political lockstep, as policy differences on display here show.
The 11th annual summit opened Thursday under cold gray skies and light rain. The meetings of the leaders of the US, Britain, Canada, France, West Germany, Italy, and Japan on economic matters were somewhat overshadowed by political events. Chief among these events were Mr. Reagan's decision to impose a trade embargo on Nicaragua and his planned visit Sunday to a German war cemetery.
Reagan said Thursday that Nicara-gua's efforts to go to the World Court over the US trade embargo ``won't make much difference.'' He added, ``We don't recognize'' World Court jurisdiction in the matter.
The President told West German President Richard von Weizs"acker he ``never waivered'' in his determination to visit the Bitburg cemetery even though members of the Waffen SS are among the soldiers buried there. Reagan also told German officials that ``the sins of the fathers are not borne by their children.''
Major stumbling blocks to economic policy cooperation evident at this highly security-conscious summit include:
French President Franois Mit-terrand's determination to keep the summit countries from agreeing to a new round of trade talks proposed by the US. The US wants the talks to help stem a wave of protectionist sentiment aimed chiefly at Japan.
Mr. Mitterrand earlier this week said, ``It is not possible for us to accept negotiations on trade matters'' if the summit nations refuse to support talks aimed at forging formal links between European, US, and Japanese currencies, with central bank intervention maintaining the links.
The US opposes a major departure from the current floating -- or market set -- monetary system, although it recently said it was willing to consider playing host to a meeting of industrial nations to consider improvements in the current system.
US Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Reagan and Mitterrand reached no conclusions on the trade talk issue in a bilateral meeting Thursday.
There is little support at the summit for the French position. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called proposals for major alterations in the monetary system ``generalized jabberwocky'' in a published interview. When asked about her remark, Reagan said, ``I am not going to criticize anything my friend Margaret says.''
Lack of enthusiasm from West Germany and Japan toward US suggestions that they take measures to speed up their economic growth rates to keep the world recovery moving as the US economy slows.
US Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III has called on both nations to ``take up the slack.''
For example, Karl Otto P"ohl, the president of West Germany's central bank, expressed wariness about his nation functioning as a ``locomotive'' for world recovery. A council of private German forecasters Monday predicted their economy would grow 2.5 percent in 1985, just under last year's 2.6 percent pace.
Japanese trading practices are another potentially contentious issue. US officials emphasized that recently-completed talks on opening Japan's telecommunications market ``accomplished virtually everything'' the US had hoped for.
But US officials said that in lumber talks with Japan there has ``not been enough movement.''
There is apparent agreement here on some economic issues. Summit participants are expected to agree with the Reagan adminstration's call to cut the red tape that reduces economic efficiency. Administration officials emphasize they are not calling for other governments to boost government spending or print more money, but to eliminate barriers to economic efficiency.
On the top political issue at the summit, European support for President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), Mr. Shultz said the so-called ``star wars'' defense plan would be discussed but ``the President is not seeking any statement'' in support of SDI.
Forecasters expect the various summit nations to enjoy much more uniform growth rates in 1985. The Data Resources, Inc., forecast is that they will vary from a low of 1.6 percent for France to a high of 4.5 percent for Japan, with growth in the other five nations hovering between 2.2 and 2.7 percent.
The greatest divergence is expected to be in the area of unemployment rates. DRI forecasts a US jobless rate for 1985 of 7.3 percent. That compares with a predicted rate for Japan of 2.8 percent. Jobless rates among the European summit nations are expected to range from 9.3 percent for Germany to 11.6 for Britain.
The US argues that restrictive government policies -- including limits on firing and extended unemployment compensation -- have kept the European economies from creating enough jobs to absorb new entrants into the job force.
Converging economic growth rates in the 3-4 percent area will offer a number of benefits, says David Hale, chief economist at Kemper Financial Services. For one thing, the profit outlook will be more nearly equal, thus making the US a relatively less attractive place to invest. That should take upward pressure off the dollar. A high dollar has hurt US export industries. Chart: 7-nation economic summits. Participants: Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the United States, and West Germany. Nov. 15-17, 1975 -- Rambouillet, France June 27-28, 1976 -- Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico May 7-8, 1977 -- London July 16-17, 1978 -- Bonn June 28-29, 1979 -- Tokyo June 22-23, 1980 -- Venice July 20-21, 1981 -- Ottawa June 4-6, 1982 -- Versailles, France May 28-30, 1983 -- Williamsburg, Va. June 7-9, 1984 -- London May 2-4, 1985 -- Bonn Chart: Key economic indicators for Bonn summit participants.
Gross rate of increase Unemployment Industrial 1984 domestic in consumer rate production
product prices growth rate Britain 2.0 % 4.6 % 13.2 % - 1.2 % Canada 4.3 3.8 11.2 5.6 France 1.8 6.7 8.9 - 1.5 Italy 3.0 9.2 10.1 2.6 Japan 5.8 2.6 2.7 9.0 US 6.8 4.0 7.4 6.2 W. Germany 2.5 2.0 8.1 2.9 Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- 30 --