Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Transport and Communications Policy (Radius) to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)


Subject: Possible Bilateral Air Transport Agreement Negotiations with Mexico


That Assistant Secretary Thorp1 and Under Secretary Webb should have knowledge of Mr. Rentzel’s recent and proposed informal conversations with Mexican officials, and his proposal for formal negotiations.


That they confirm the Department’s position that no informal commitments or formal negotiations should be undertaken until a firm CAB position on the revision of the Latin American Route Decision has been presented to the Department and has received the approval of the President, and approve the attached letter2 asking for the CAB’s position.


The Mexican part of the Latin American Route Decision of 19463 certificating 5 U.S. carriers on 6 routes into Mexico has never been put into effect through a bilateral air transport agreement because of Mexico’s refusal to accept the U.S. concept of complete reciprocal competitive opportunity on all possible air routes. Last March Mr. Rentzel, (then Chairman of the CAB and now Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation), apparently with the knowledge and approval of the President, explored informally with President Aleman and top Mexican transportation officials the current possibilities of an agreement on the basis of modified U.S. route requests. Mr. Rentzel reported informally to the President and the Department that there was a reasonable chance for an agreement based upon an exchange of routes which would permit Mexican air carriers to operate the shorter trans-border [Page 1485] routes, including New Orleans-Mexico City, on a monopoly basis, with U.S. carriers operating the longer routes between the major traffic points in the U.S. and Mexico.

Secretary of Commerce Sawyer4 and Mr. Rentzel have informally requested the Mexican Minister of Communications and Director of Civil Aviation5 to come to Washington for further informal exploratory talks within the next few weeks. In as much as the invitation has already been issued, the Department has taken the position that it has no objection to further informal exploratory talks. It was emphasized that it must be clearly understood by the Mexican officials that no formal agreement can be reached at this time. Embassy Mexico has been instructed6 so to advise the Mexicans in order that hopes will not be unduly raised and misunderstandings result.7

On May 5 (Mr. Rentzel’s last day as Chairman of the CAB), he requested interested Department officials to meet with the Board and stated that the Board has “reconsidered” the Latin American Route Decision and was prepared to agree to an exchange of routes substantially along the lines of the Mexican proposal. Department officers at the meeting emphasized to the Board that, in the Department’s opinion, it would be inappropriate for the Department to negotiate an international agreement which would in effect constitute a revision of the Route Decision approved by the President without an explicit directive from the President. Mr. Rentzel suggested that it might be desirable to enter into formal negotiations even with the knowledge that agreement could be reached only on a basis which would in effect eliminate certain of the certificates issued to U.S. carriers with Presidential approval in 1946, expressing his belief that the necessary legal steps could be taken after the conclusion of the agreement.

It is conceivable that, in his new capacity as Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation, Mr. Rentzel may continue his activities in this matter as a result of his understanding with the President and may, in his informal conversations with the Mexican officials, partially commit the U.S. Government to later formal negotiations, attempting then to get the Department’s concurrence to such formal negotiations without having obtained the President’s explicit directive as to the exact routes for which the U.S. would settle.

Section 802 of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 19388 places on the negotiation by the Secretary of State of aviation agreements with foreign governments only the condition that the CAB be advised of, [Page 1486] and consulted concerning, such negotiations. Nevertheless there is serious question whether, in view of the responsibilities placed upon the CAB by the Civil Aeronautics Act, the Department can properly conclude an agreement which would entirely omit several routes contemplated by a previous CAB route decision, approved by the President, awarding certificates to United States air carriers. At best the Department would be placed in a difficult position vis-à-vis the United States carriers whose certificates would not be covered by the agreed routes unless the President had previously agreed to corresponding revisions of such decision.

Since the Latin American Route Decision of 1946, referred to above, contains routes which the Mexican Government is not prepared to agree to in an air transport agreement, the Department should have a written statement by the CAB, setting forth the manner in which it is prepared to amend that decision if necessary to achieve agreement with Mexico. Such a statement should set forth the minimum route requirements on which an agreement can be based as well as the CAB’s evaluation of the relative importance of routes above that minimum which this Government may attempt to obtain in the course of negotiations. The proposed United States position based on such statement should be presented to the President by the CAB and the Department for his explicit agreement to the conclusion of an agreement in conformity with it.

Walter A. Radius
  1. Willard L. Thorp, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.
  2. For text of the decision of May 17, “Additional Service to Latin America”, see Civil Aeronautics Board Reports (Washington, 1946), vol. 6, pp. 857–946.
  3. Not attached to source text, but see Secretary Acheson’s letter, June 5, infra.
  4. Charles Sawyer.
  5. Angel Martin Perez.
  6. Department of State’s telegram 1108, May 11, 1951, not printed (611.1294/5–1151).
  7. In the Department’s telegram 1135, May 18, 1951, not printed, the Embassy in Mexico City was instructed to make clear to the Mexican Government that not even an informal understanding could be reached at this time (611.1294/5–1651).
  8. For text of the Civil Aeronautics Act (Public Law 706), approved June 23, 1938, see 52 Stat. 973.