Europe weighs costs of imposing sanctions on South Africa. Europe's large investments make nations lukewarm to anti-apartheid action

With the United States Congress pushing for sanctions against South Africa, can Europe be far behind? That's a critical question for South Africa since Europe also has considerable investments in that country. Britain's investments alone are about equal to those of the US.

So far, Europe has done little economically to censure South Africa. Of the major European countries which trade with South Africa, only France has indicated it may consider imposing sanctions against South Africa if the white-ruled republic doesn't end apartheid within two years.

The Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish governments have decided to halt flights to South Africa by the jointly-owned Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) to express their disapproval of apartheid. For the most part though, South Africa's European trading partners have been surprised at the speed with which the divestiture movement is sweeping the US.

Recent South African raids into Angola and Botswana, as well as the spectacle of white security forces lashing out at rioting black demonstrators, have marred South Africa's image in the US and undermined the Reagan administration's policy of ``constructive engagement.''

Yet despite US outrage at scenes of South African violence fueling demands for sanctions, there hasn't been a comparable groundswell in Europe for divestiture. At least not yet.

Black African nations favor universal sanctions against South Africa, but even many of them still do clandestine business with the nation. African countries imported $1.2 billion worth of South African goods in the first 10 months of 1980.

There is also a feeling among many that sanctions against South Africa might backfire, forcing the country to become more resilient and self-reliant. For instance, as a result of a UN arms embargo, South Africa not only now makes its own arms, but has enough surplus capacity to be a substantial exporter.

The economics of imposing sanctions will probably be the strongest disincentive for most Europeans.

While the US may take the largest chunk of South Africa's trade (15.7 percent of its imports and 8.3 percent of its exports) the economic costs of sanctions would not be nearly so great as for the major European countries.

Their economies are less robust and more dependent on South Africa, which forms a larger percentage of their markets. While South Africa accounts for only 1 percent of all US investment abroad, it represents as much as 6 to 7 percent of all British foreign investment.

The Institute for European Economic Studies in London says the effect of sanctions on West Germany would be the loss of 130,000 jobs.

The impact would be even greater for Britain, where unemployment is already at 13.5 percent. There, 250,000 jobs would be lost, according to the institute. Other observers put the number of South African-related jobs more conservatively at around 150,000.

One Foreign Office official says that, given Britain's high unemployment, any move to cut trade with South Africa makes no sense.

In certain respects, European trade with South Africa has recently assumed greater not lesser importance.

Partly because of Nigeria's economic problems, South Africa has regained its preeminence as Britain's largest trading partner in Africa.

West German direct investment doubled from over $229 million 1978 to $585 million in 1981.

Directly or indirectly Britain has more than 11 billion (over $14 billion) invested in South Africa, according to its Department of Trade and Industry. This compares to US investments of $13.78 billion.

When total foreign investment in South Africa is broken down, it looks like this: 50 percent comes from the countries of the European Community; 12.8 percent comes from other European countries. North and South America combine to produce an investment percentage of 24.1, with all other countries, including Japan, claiming 13.1 percent.

Admittedly the US is still South Africa's largest trading partner. Last year, US imports amounted to $1.5 billion, and its exports to more than $900 million.

This compares with West Germany (which imported $1.5 billion and exported $441 million), Japan (which imported $1.3 billion and exported $8.6 million), and Britain (which imported $1.1 billion and exported $498 million).

Up until now, foreign investment in South Africa has been generally dictated less by foreign governments' policies toward apartheid than by the political climate prevailing at the time.

The turbulence caused by a crisis in South Africa in 1960 caused a massive outflow of capital. When order was restored it began to flow back.

The big question for political leaders, as much as for banks and large corporations, is whether the recent spate of violence is merely something of the moment or a portent of worse things to come.

While the television screen is filled with pictures of clashes between police and demonstrators as it has been these past few months, the sanctions lobby gains ground. Chart:FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA European Community (EC): 50% Non-EC, European countries: 12.8% North and South America: 24.1% All other countries, including Japan: 13.1%

When total foreign investment in South Africa is broken down, it looks like this: 50 percent comes from the countries of the European Community; 12.8 percent comes from other European countries. North and South America combine to produce an investment percentage of 24.1, with all other countries claiming 13.1 percent. 30{et

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