Chirac in Washington

THIS seems to be the season for traveling premiers. First Britain's Margaret Thatcher to Moscow, now Jacques Chirac of France to Washington. Prestige-enhancing photo opportunities, presumably to the benefit of the respective superpower hosts as well as their visitors, all around. Actually, the good news about the Chirac visit is precisely that it is relatively routine. France, long the ``troublesome ally'' of the United States, is more the staunch friend today than in times past. The Washington visit will no doubt have political value for Chirac - and Mr. Reagan meanwhile, can't help being flattered that much of the new economic program Mr. Chirac just announced before leaving Paris is essentially Reaganomics with a French accent.

Mr. Chirac came to the US in search of assurance - provided forthwith - that a US-Soviet Euromissile accord will not leave Western Europe unprotected from the Soviets. The French are insisting that any eventual accord must leave Washington the right to build up a short-range missile force in Europe - and so is Washington. (Whether the French would ever allow such short-range missiles to be stationed on French soil is, however, another question altogether.)

He and Mr. Reagan also signed an accord resolving the unseemly dispute between US and French scientists over royalties from the AIDS virus blood test.

Mr. Chirac availed himself of a breakfast meeting with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to beat the drum for free trade and against what he sees as protectionist legislation working its way through committee that would limit European imports to the US.

And, in the laudable French tradition of concern for the developing world, Mr. Chirac has pleaded the case for granting some relief to third-world debtor nations. He got a lukewarm reception from Washington officials on this, but he was right to raise the issue.

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