US antitrust laws have too long a reach. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser of Australia says President Reagan agrees that the US antitrust laws, which recently have been applied on an extraterritorial basis, have "reached too far," and the US has agreed to examine its policy.
In a press conference held in New York under the auspices of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Australian prime minister, wrapping up a tour of the United States, said President Reagan "understands the problem" of extraterritorial administration of antitrust laws. Australia has volunteered to send its attorney general, Sen. Peter Durack, to the US for discussions on the policy.
Mr. Fraser said in his discussions with President Reagan on June 30 that there had been "no commitment to detail," but President Reagan agreed US law had "gone too far."
US antitrust policy has particularly upset the Australians since it has been applied to Australian companies involved in uranium mining. For three years the executives of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (CRA), one of the largest Australian companies, have been unable to travel to the US. They are under the threat of a jail sentence because of a US court ruling that US antitrust laws were broken by a foreign cartel of uranium producers.
CRA is a miner and exporter of uranium. Although CRA eventually settled out of court for $6.8 million a lawsuit associated with the uranium antitrust suit, the application of US law to Australian companies has upset the Australians. Australia, as well as other countries such as Britain, have threatened to pass laws confiscating the assets of US companies if US antitrust laws are applied against their own corporations.
Under US antitrust provisions, Westinghouse Electric sued the foreign companies that were part of the uranium cartel after the Pittsburgh company was unable to meet its contracts to supply uranium to various utilities for their nuclear power plants. It claimed the cartel had refused to sell it uranium unless it met the cartel's price. The suit was eventually settled out of court.
In other matters, the Australian prime minister said:
* The US has yet to make a "formal request" for Australian troops to take part in any Sinai peacekeeping force. However, in informal talks, the Australians have shown a reluctance to commit combat forces to such a peacekeeping force. Mr. Fraser said he had yet to make up his mind about assigning troops and wanted to bring the matter up before his Cabinet before making a statement.
* Australia was concerned about North-South issues and would address the problems of the poor nations in three summit-type meetings to be held this year.
The first meeting will be in Ottawa, the second in Australia when the Commonwealth heads of government meet, and the third in Mexico. On his current trip Mr. Fraser has met with both Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of Canada and President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico. Both officials, he said, had indicated that North-South issues have a high priority in their meetings. "The issues are real and must be addressed," said Mr. Fraser.
* He continued to harbor a degree of skepticism about East-West relations. Any vacillation by the US, Mr. Fraser said, would be construed by the Soviet Union as a sign of weakness. "We strongly support the policies of President Reagan," he stated.
* Australia had yet to make a decision on whether or not to proceed with a uranium enrichment facility. Various feasibility studies are under way in some of the states to determine whether or not Australia should build such a plant. In the meantime, he pointed out, new uranium mines are opening and yellowcake is being shipped out of the country.
Although Mr. Fraser indicated his concern for North- South issues, he refused to state whether or not Australian foreign aid would be increased this year. The budget cabinet has yet to meet, he said, for the country's fiscal 1982 budget, and Mr. Fraser refused to predict its size or scope. Mr. Fraser in the past year has been trying to hold government spending down. It mushroomed in the past five years.
After the press conference, Mr. Fraser strolled up New York's Fifth Avenue, trailed by an Australian television crew, newsmen and women, and Secret Service agents. He concludes his trip to the US on July 8 with a visit to Columbia, S.C., to accept an honorary degree from the University of South Carolina.