US TRADE DEFICIT BALLOONS The broadest measure of the US trade deficit shot up 20.7 percent from April through June to the highest level in nearly five years, the government announced Sept. 14. The second-quarter gap in the US current account totaled $26.93 billion, up from $22.31 billion during the January-March period, when the deficit actually fell 5.8 percent. The current account is considered the broadest measure of America's international competitiveness because it tracks not only trade in merchandise but also trade in services and investment flows between the United States and other nations. It was the largest quarterly deficit since a $32.96 billion imbalance in the final three months of 1988. Vietnam embargo eased
President Clinton is relaxing the US trade embargo against Vietnam, allowing US firms to compete for the first time for internationally funded development projects in that country.
The White House said on Sept. 13 that the gesture to Vietnam was a reflection of Hanoi's increased willingness to cooperate in providing an accounting of Americans still missing from the Vietnam War. Sweden lifts sanctions
Sweden, one of the strongest critics of apartheid, dropped its trade sanctions against South Africa on Sept. 13 citing progress at democracy talks and plans for free elections next April. Sweden will now focus on expanding economic cooperation and restoring lost market share, Foreign Trade Minister Ulf Dinkelspiel said. Norway election results
Norway's ruling Labor Party has strengthened its power in a general election, but voters may have shattered its plans for Norway to join the European Community. While Labor gained slightly in the Sept. 13 vote, the bitterly anti-EC Center Party surged to become the second-largest party behind Labor in the 165-member parliament and vowed to step up its fight against EC membership.
With about 90 percent of the vote counted on Sept. 14, Labor was set to win 67 seats, up from 63 in the last election in 1989. The minority government can keep power by creating informal alliances with smaller parties. The Center Party was headed to win 31 seats, up from 11 in 1989. Yugoslav huddle
The presidents of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina met on Sept. 14 in a session that mediators hoped would clear obstacles and allow the resumption of peace talks on ending the war. The talks were not expected to yield a date for new negotiations, UN envoy Thorvald Stoltenberg said, but he said he considered it important that the sides continued to meet.
The talks broke down Sept. 1 after Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic held fast to a demand for improved Muslim access to the Adriatic Sea. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman called the ``new demands'' unacceptable and blames the Muslims for the collapse of the talks. Brazil Cabinet turmoil
Brazil's largest political party has moved closer to a break with President Itamar Franco. Three more Cabinet ministers resigned on Sept. 13. The Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), President Franco's main support in Congress, had five members in the Cabinet, but with these resignations is now down to one the education minister.
The PMDB's backing is considered crucial for Franco to get legislative approval for his economic programs, which include plans to reduce inflation running at 33 percent a month. He wanted these reforms passed during the legislature's revision of the constitution, scheduled to begin in October. Dioxin ban urged
The National Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and about 50 other groups planned to file a formal petition on Sept. 14 with the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to ban discharge of dioxin by paper mills, in effect calling for chlorine-free production.
The EPA is in the midst of a reassessment of the dangers of dioxin, and the environmental groups say evidence gathered thus far provides adequate proof to link the compound with health problems. EPA is also developing new regulations to stem paper mills' dioxin releases.