PROTECTIONIST measures to restrict world trade would -- under most circumstances -- be hard enough to defend. It is understandable that they might look attractive at a time of tepid economic growth. In fact, increasing numbers of lawmakers are jumping aboard the protectionist bandwagon in Congress. The latest proposal, advocated by some Democrats, would threaten the imposition of surcharges on goods from Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Brazil, unless those nations became more accommodating to US exports.
This is not the moment to impose tough new trade restrictions on other nations. Clearly, the US economy has slowed down of late -- with the nation's output of goods and services growing by about 1 percent in real terms for the first half of 1985. And the US economic engine tends to set the pace for global economic growth.
Efforts by Washington to prod other nations into opening up their borders to more US exports are appropriate. But protectionist measures are counterproductive. They force other nations to retaliate with restrictions of their own. If many nations did that, the impact on world commerce could be particularly damaging.