Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Linder) 1

  • Subject:
  • The Secretary’s Testimony on the Trade Agreements Act

Because of great domestic pressures, the Japanese Government has been persistently seeking some way by which Japan can quickly accede to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Apparently we have finally convinced the Foreign Office that the decision made by the President to request renewal of the Trade Agreements Act for one year only, precludes the full-scale negotiations with the United States normally to be expected before Japan could accede. However, they have informally proposed the following:

That the U.S. support early multilateral negotiations of the Annecy type. That is, the present contracting parties would negotiate only with Japan and any other countries which might wish to accede.
The United States agree to negotiate bilaterally with Japan, but with the understanding that the United States would only bind some existing rates of duty against increase. The Japanese believe that negotiations in which no reductions in duty were made would be consonant with our commitment to Congress not to enter into “substantial negotiations”. The Japanese might be willing to accede without any additional concessions of any kind—even new bindings.

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The Japanese have presented us with a thorny problem. It will be necessary to examine the proposal to determine whether the advantages to be gained from such action would be worth the risks incurred. It is recognized that we would have to wait until after the Trade Agreements Act is renewed to commit ourselves to the Japanese, and even then only after reaching agreement with congressional leaders that such negotiations would be consonant with the commitment not to enter into “major negotiations” in the coming year. On the other hand, it is clear that if we refuse the proposal out of hand, United States-Japanese relations would be seriously impaired.

In the meantime, I think we should suggest to the Secretary that if he is asked at the trade agreements hearing Monday whether we would negotiate with Japan he avoid making a reply which would preclude our agreeing to the Japanese proposal. If you agree, NA will work out with CP an additional “question and answer” to be added to the Secretary’s black book.

  1. Drafted by White.