261. Memorandum of Conversation0
- The President’s Meeting with the Guinean Ministerial Delegation
- M. Moussa Diakite, Minister-Governor of the Bank of the Republic of Guinea
- M. Alassane Diop, Minister of Telecommunications
- M. Alpha Abdoulaye Diallo, Director of Cabinet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ambassador Seydou Conte
- M. Mamadou Bah, Director of the National Credit Bank
- The President
- Mr. Edmund C. Hutchinson, Assistant Administrator, Bureau of African and European Affairs, A.I.D.
- Mr. Henry J. Tasca, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, State Dept.
- Mr. Donald Dumont, Acting Director, Office of West African Affairs, State Dept.
- Mr. Eugene Abrams, Acting Director, US A.I.D. Guinea
- The President welcomed the Delegation and inquired whether Mr. Diakite had any comments to make.
Mr. Diakite stated that the Guinean Delegation was most pleased with the results of their visit to the U.S., adding that the Delegation was grateful for this generous assistance that the President, through A.I.D., was making available to Guinea. The Minister reviewed Guinea’s past relations with the U.S., expressing gratitude for the timely U.S. assistance given at the outset of Guinea’s difficult access to independence. He went on to describe Guinea’s current economic difficulties, mentioning the failure of certain countries to live up to their promises, and specifically Guinea’s balance of payment problems.
The President inquired as to whether the Delegation had discussed this situation with Mr. Per Jacobssen of the IMF.
Mr. Diakite replied that discussions with the IMF were still under way and requested that the President support Guinea’s request for membership in the IMF.
The President replied that he would speak to Secretary Dillon regarding the best course of action to take.
Mr. Diakite stated that the IMF was attempting to put Guinea in the same class as Togo; i.e., a small small country, eligible for an $11 million quota, whereas the Guineans felt that based on comparisons of exports and imports Guinea should be more appropriately considered a big small country like Senegal, which had a $25 million quota.
The President then inquired as to the amount of aid, budgetary or otherwise, that Guinea was receiving from the French.
Mr. Diakite replied that Guinea was receiving no assistance whatsoever from the French. In fact, he went on to state, the French owed Guinea a considerable amount of money. He described this debt as taking the form of pensions owed by the French Government to veterans of French Military service which Guinea had been paying since independ-ence at the rate of some $8 million per year, now totaling approximately $30 million.
The President then inquired as to whether the Guineans had attempted to resolve their differences with the French with a view to re-establishing normal relations between the two countries.
Mr. Diakite replied that President Sekou Toure had written to President De Gaulle upon the signature of the Evian agreements, but that this gesture had had no echo.
The President then stated that he was seeing French Ambassador Alphand the next day and would inform him of the visit of the Guinean delegation. He went on to say that he did not want to see most African countries having access to the Common Market with Guinea left out. The President then inquired as to Guinea’s reserves in gold.
Mr. Diakite replied that Guinea had no gold reserves, but that her foreign exchange reserves consisted of approximately $30 million. He went on to describe in general terms Guinea’s balance of payments difficulties. He described how certain foreign enterprises had made commitments to their foreign lenders and how Guinea respected these commitments. He stated that Guinea’s imports matched approximately her exports but that the capital repayment requirements of these foreign enterprises resulted in a deficit of approximately $30 million per year. He went on to state that Guinea wished to settle its accounts with France, but that raising of the question of Guinea’s participation in the Common Market prior to normalization of relations on an overall basis would be premature.
Mr. Diakite reiterated the gratitude of his Government for the generous assistance provided by the U.S. He specifically mentioned the Investment Guaranty Agreement which had been signed the day before, as well as the commodity import assistance to which the U.S. had committed itself. He stated parenthetically that Guinea should be considered apart from other African countries because it had no metropole to support its currency system. He suggested that a possible solution to this [Page 404] problem might lie in permitting Guinea to utilize local currencies generated by U.S. import programs for the purchase of U.S. material.
The President explained that local currencies generated by P.L. 480 or other import programs could not be converted to dollars. He again expressed his surprise that no French assistance was being made available to Guinea. The President then pointed out that the U.S. also had its balance of payment problems. He cited the $100 billion that the U.S. had made available to other countries for aid. He pointed to the loss of $11 billion in gold from U.S. reserves, pointing out that if the U.S. ceased its aid operations it would have no balance of payments problem. He explained that in the U.S., a free country, he had requested the Congress for $4.75 billion in foreign aid funds but that he had no assurance that these funds would be forthcoming, pointing to last year’s cut of $1 billion in the foreign aid program. He described how, whenever a dam was proposed for a foreign country, certain congressmen said they needed dams in their districts.
The President stated that he did not wish the Delegation to leave thinking that the U.S. was not concerned with the problems of Guinea. He stated that on the contrary he had been impressed by the cordial and sincere welcome given to the various American representatives who had gone to Guinea, mentioning specifically the hearty welcome given to his brother-in-law, Mr. Shriver. The President went on to state that the U.S. desired a truly independent Guinea, free from the East-West struggle. He understood Guinea’s position, citing the neutral policy that the U.S. had maintained for 100 years. The President concluded by expressing the hope that the Guinean Delegation would understand why the U.S. could not do all that it wished.
The President, in an aside to Messrs. Hutchinson and Abrams, stated that efforts should be made to make full use of the P.L. 480 program in assisting Guinea in its balance of payments problems.
In a final observation, as the group broke up, the President remarked that the U.S. considered Guinea a big small country.
The group then went out on the veranda off the Cabinet room for pictures, followed by an introduction to Miss Caroline Kennedy, who was playing on the lawn.
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Guinea. Confidential. Drafted by Abrams on May 23; cleared by Hutchinson (AA/AFR), Dumont (in draft), and Tasca; and approved at the White House on June 15. The conversation took place at the White House.↩