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In only two years, the European Common Market is scheduled to have a unified economy that will be larger than that of the United States.

But American exporters are going to miss out on much of this vast market if they don't switch their products to the metric system, the method of measurement used by Europe and 98 percent of the world.That's why Congress set up the U.S. Metric Board in an effort to prod Americans into switching voluntarily from inches, yards, quarts, and pounds to centimeters, meters, liters and kilograms.

It's also the reason for the law requiring federal agencies to switch to the metric system - figured in multiples of 10 in computing weights, volumes and distances - by 1993.

But those agencies have been stalling. Just ask the General Accounting Office, which recently reported that even the U.S. Department of Commerce - which should be leading the way because of its foreign-trade responsibilities - has been going slow on the switch to metrics.

Until the United States makes this switch, it will be virtually alone in resisting metrics - except for such small nations as Brunei, Burma, Liberia, and Yemen. That's some company for the world's largest and most influential country.

Yet meters, grams, and liters have long been recognized as a simpler and easier way of doing calculations than inches, feet, pounds and gallons.

What's more, it stands to reason that American products that come in pounds and quarts don't always fit easily on foreign shelves designed to hold gram and liter sizes. Nor is it easy for American manufacturers to sell parts for foreign machines built to metric measurements.

The longer the United States spurns the measuring method used by its major trading partners and competitors alike, the more business we will lose. America had better start measuring up - posthaste.