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Americans establish themselves here. Shouldn't it work both ways?

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Overpaid, over-sexed and over here - thus ran the slogan that evidenced the ill feeling occasionally felt towards American servicemen based here during World War II. And there is increasing ill feeling against Americans working here again, this time because they are not playing fair over trade.

Of course, nobody in their right mind would challenge the ability of Skidmore Owings & Merrill to design and make buildings just as nobody would challenge the ability of Boeing to design and manufacture aircraft.

But we do. Or, I should say, we do in principle because British law requires Skidmore's to operate its uk office under the direction of an architect registered here.

Despite this legislation, the Americans are so well established in the uk that they have their own branch of the American Institute of Architects in London. But arb won't act to curb the activities of those Americans who breach the uk law on architects' registration. In principle, I of course have no objection to American firms setting up offices here, providing they offer reciprocal trading arrangements, as do our European neighbours. But they don't, and won't, and that is why the arb should climb off the fence and act - now.

But the arb lacks the stomach for this fight and this simply won't do. Indeed, it is really quite stupid that arb should continue to direct its energies towards prosecuting relatively small-scale cowboy outfits up and down the country for breaching the registration law when many large American practices commit the same offence without any fear of challenge.

The Americans predictably have both an excuse and a solution. Their excuse is that because theirs is a federal nation, they cannot introduce legislation for reciprocal practice arrangements which would be binding on all their member states.

Now isn't that convenient!

And their solution is for uk offices building in the usa to form partnerships with American firms entitled to practise in the state in question. But that is simply no good to us, because it is both cumbersome to achieve and unacceptable in operation - unacceptable because the issue of partnership or joint venture strikes at the very heart of an architect's relationship with his client, and his authority over his own work.

The world is changing and this sort of nonsense from the Americans simply won't wash any longer, as they learned in Prague last week when riba vice-president John Wright spelled out to our friends from the States that they are breaching the uia accord on international practice and it won't be tolerated.

As expected, they again wriggled and spluttered their tiresome excuses, but to little effect - everybody at the uia recognises their continued procrastination for what it is - ugly, old-fashioned, trade protectionism.

That is why the arb should act, and act now, in the uk. For only when each nation stands up to the Americans will we bring the pressure that is necessary to achieve mutually acceptable reciprocal trading arrangements.

It is essential in this respect that we support the uia in its worthy efforts towards the international accreditation of courses that will raise standards of architectural education universally and improve the prospects for architects from less-advantaged countries to both gain employment and win commissions in the international market.

That is the objective and the riba is playing its part on behalf of the uk. Of course, we want the Americans in, but until they play fair the arb should use its powers to nail those architects from America who are breaking our registration laws. The kind of gentlemen's agreement that the arb has adopted which leaves them free to practise here undermines our interests and the uia accord.

But the long-term goal must be to sweep away all restrictions on the international practice of architecture, save only for local codes of ethics and conduct. When that is achieved, the arb will itself be limited to a role that it can perform with competence, and without conflict with either our schools of architecture or our institute. That, too, would be welcome.

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