Trade Too Good to Miss

A good idea surfaced briefly at the Pacific Rim summit last week. It was hardly noticed amidst the parley's anxieties. But it deserves top-level attention.

The concept is simple: Give priority to cutting trade barriers on environmental equipment. That would:

* Cut the cost of new technology designed to shrink factory, car, and home emissions. That, in turn, could help break the impasse on global warming. This month's Kyoto summit on cutting greenhouse gas emissions is likely to lay an egg unless some such innovative idea makes those cuts less painful for most nations.

* Challenge congressional opponents of fast-track trade power for President Clinton. They claim they're not against liberalizing trade - so long as any deal includes environmental and labor safeguards. Trade in environmental equipment should pass that test with flying colors.

* Help troubled Asian nations. They (1) need environmental equipment because of pollution caused by rapid growth, and (2) could make and export it to help their economies.

World leaders should instruct their trade negotiators to seek a deal.

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