MOSCOW -- The president of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Trade and Economic Council said today the United States should give the Soviet Union most-favored-nation trading status and repeal the Jackson-Vani amendment that links trade to emigration policies.
More than 200 Soviets and 400 Americans accompanied by Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige were on hand for the 'business summit' - three days of talks expected to boost superpower trade out of its five-year slump.
The Council's U.S. president, James Giffen, told a news conference at today's opening session the Geneva summit had created a favorable atmosphere for improving economic ties with the Soviet Union.
But he said three main obstacles remained in the path of normal bilateral trade: political constraints, legal constraints and economic restraints.
Politically, Giffen said, trade is tied to arms negotiations. Legally, the Export Act of 1985 prevents trade in many items and economically, the strong dollar and competition from government-subsidized businesses hurt U.S. trade abroad.
Giffen said the 1972 Jackson-Vanik amendment and lack of MFN status also hampered expanded American-Soviet trade.
'We believe the Jackson-Vanik amendment should be repealed,' Giffen said. 'And we support most-favored-nation status for the Soviet Union.'
Currently, the United States sells $2.6. billion of goods a year to the Soviet Union -- mainly grain -- but imports only $600 million.
Baldrige, who was scheduled to meet today with Foreign Trade Minister Boris Aristov, said on his arrival Sunday with 160 other Americans that prospects for bilateral business cooperation have improved greatly since the Geneva summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Deputy Trade Minister Vladimir Sushkov echoed the positive mood when he met the Americans arriving Sunday, saying he expected the meeting to result in increased trade. The other U.S. executives began to arrive last week.
U.S.-Soviet trade plummeted after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from more than $4 billion in 1979 to less than $2 billion in 1980. It has hovered at around $2 billion since then.
The trade meeting was the first tangible test of the Nov. 19-20 summit between President Reagan and Gorbachev. More than 100 Americans signed up to attend in the weeks following the summit, a U.S. council spokesman said.
The meetings -- held annually since 1972 except for the three years after the invasion of Afghanistan -- focus on bilateral trade issues, but the Americans traditionally use them to set up private negotiations with Soviet officials.