A Viking in Washington

SWEDISH Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson's visit to the United States - and his meeting with President Reagan - represent an overdue diplomatic reconciliation between the two nations. Given their close historical, economic, and cultural links, a full healing of the breach between Stockholm and Washington was inevitable, presumably even had former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme not been gunned down in an assassination last year.

Well before his death the controversial Palme - who had frequently criticized the US during the Vietnam war and welcomed US deserters to Sweden - was moving toward a personal accommodation with Washington. Now, with Palme no longer on the scene and the less controversial, consensus-oriented Carlsson in office, there is no justification for anything less than mutual amity between the two governments.

Mr. Carlsson is the first Swedish prime minister to make an official working visit to the US since Tage Erlander met with President John Kennedy in the early 1960s. Yet, the lack of formal ties at the very highest levels of government has hardly dampened diplomatic and other links between Viking Sweden and free-enterprise America. The links stem in part from the substantial Scandinavian-American community within the US, particularly in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, and also from close trade and cultural associations. Swedish enterprises such as Volvo, Ericsson, and Electrolux - the latter reportedly the largest producer of household appliances in the world - are all familiar to US consumers. Swedish films also attract US audiences.

The meeting between Carlsson and Mr. Reagan surely serves both leaders well. Sweden's Social Democratic government disagrees with Washington about a number of issues, including US support for the Nicaraguan contras as well as Washington's moderate support for the ruling white government in South Africa. It is useful for Reagan to hear arguments against his policies from a responsible democratic partner such as Sweden.

At the same time, Carlsson cannot have failed to note the value of lower tax rates in helping to spur US economic growth and business formation - a primary Reagan objective. Sweden is attempting to reconcile the need for stepped-up economic growth with its costly welfare system - a task that could be bolstered by a lowering of the onerous personal tax rates in that Scandinavian nation. Indeed, Carlsson's Social Democrats are now talking up tax reform as they look ahead to next year's crucial parliamentary elections.

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