After a flurry of diplomatic consultations, the United States, Western Europe and Japan are expected shortly to impose additional economic sanctions against South Africa, according to British and U.S. officials.
The measures are likely to include a European Communities ban on imports of South African coal, iron and steel and other steps, limited but as yet unspecified, by the United States and Japan.
The steps would fall far short of the trade embargo urged by many governments in black Africa.
Indeed, they would underscore the position of many Western governments, including the United States, that specific, narrowly focused measures--political signals as much as punitive measures--are more effective than blanket sanctions in pressuring for change in South Africa.
Key Trading Partners
Any steps taken by the United States, the European Communities and Japan would be important to the South African government, for these are South Africa’s principal trading partners.
The diplomatic activity, according to a senior U.S. official, is not aimed at agreement on a common policy but at achieving “a broad harmony of approach.”
“The differences in national interest, in trade patterns and in the numbers of dual nationals are too great (for joint identical action),” the official said.
Chester A. Crocker, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, returned to Washington late Wednesday after talks here with British Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe and Wasuke Miyake, director general of Middle East and African affairs in the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Crocker’s visit came just a few weeks before a European Communities deadline for action on the limited sanctions discussed last June by Common Market leaders at The Hague. At that meeting, the European heads of government agreed to review within three months the possibility of imposing a ban on new investment and on the import of coal, iron, steel and gold coins from South Africa.
Since then, Howe’s abortive diplomatic mission to southern Africa on behalf of the 12 Common Market countries and the deteriorating political situation in South Africa have fueled expectations that sanctions will be imposed.
Any European ban on investment would be viewed as largely insignificant. Investment in South Africa has virtually stopped already because of the political unrest there, but blocking imports could hurt South Africa. Last year, the 12 Common Market countries purchased 10% of South Africa’s iron and steel exports and more than 60% of its coal exports.
The European foreign ministers are expected to take the first steps toward implementing these measures at an informal meeting this weekend at a retreat north of London. Formal action is expected at the foreign ministers’ full-dress meeting in Brussels on Sept. 15-16.
Expected to Renew Order
In Washington, the Reagan Administration and Congress are studying further action against South Africa. An executive order containing a series of limited sanctions against South Africa is scheduled to expire next week, and Administration officials have said they expect it to be renewed, possibly with additions.
Although reluctant to invoke substantive economic sanctions, the Administration may want to act on its own to head off more severe measures called for in separate House and Senate bills. A senior Administration official indicated that some additional steps, including a ban on air links to South Africa, are under active consideration. A ban on air links would be largely a political signal, since there are no direct flights between the United States and South Africa.
“Our feeling is that a signal should be sent to the South African government, but that one must be selective,” the Administration official said. “We have to look at what we can do that’s constructive and not destructive.”
Japanese Action Expected
Now that U.S. and European representatives have consulted with Japanese Foreign Ministry officials on South Africa, the Japanese are expected to follow with their own limited measures.
“They share a broadly common view and want to be constructive in the region,” the U.S. official said.
Last October, Japan imposed restrictions on exports to South Africa similar to those contained in President Reagan’s Sept. 9, 1985, executive order, including a ban on the import of gold coins and the export of computer equipment to government bodies engaged in enforcing apartheid, South Africa’s system of racial segregation.