449. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Johnson) to the Under Secretary of State (Ball)1


  • Communication Satellites—Report of Plenary Meeting of European Conference on Satellite Communication, Rome, November 26–29, 1963

The Third Plenary Meeting of the European Conference on Satellite Communication reached a number of important decisions, summarized below.


Cables vs. Satellites. The Conference discussed this question at length. The Europeans seemed to feel that for them it is an either-or choice in terms of providing the circuits necessary to meet anticipated traffic in the period of 1965–67. They are far from satisfied that satellites should be chosen over cables. The Conference authorized their Telecommunications Committee to invite officials of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company to an intensive discussion of the relative merits of cables and satellites to be held in Bonn on January 13. The Conference will also inform the United States Government of the meeting in order that we may send officials of appropriate agencies, to attend together with the AT&T representatives. The interested bureaus of the Department are in agreement that representatives of the Communications Satellite Corporation, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Department should attend the meeting.

It is important that the Corporation, the Government, and the AT&T be in complete agreement on the positions to be adopted in the meeting. It may be desirable for you and other Executive Branch officials to meet with AT&T officials in the near future.


European Organization. It was agreed that the 19 countries participating in the Conference should form a new regional organization, in a corporate form, to be the European partner of the United States Communications Satellite Corporation in a global system of communication satellites. The Conference declared itself to be the provisional European organization. The primary organizational questions not yet resolved are: [Page 1017]

Whether the commercial organization (to be formed by treaty) should have a regularly constituted governmental supervisory council to deal with “political” questions in addition to its regular board of directors.
Whether voting on “political” questions should be weighted in proportion to investment of each participating country or be on a one-country-one-voice basis. It is agreed that on commercial questions voting should be weighted in direct proportion to investment.

The Organizational Committee of the Conference will attempt to solve these problems at meetings to be held in the coming months.


Discussions and Negotiations with the United States. The Conference decided to invite the Governments of the United States and Canada to an exploratory meeting to be held in Rome the first week in February. The purpose of the meeting will be to determine if a basis for agreement exists between Europe and North America and to plan the terms of reference of a first negotiating conference to be held in March or April with the view toward concluding provisional intergovernmental agreements permitting progress to be made in the design, installation and operation of an initial system.

A cooperative attitude on the part of the Europeans was reflected in their willingness to accede to the timetable proposed by the United States.

It is anticipated that a formal negotiating conference to conclude a multilateral treaty providing a framework for a permanent organization will be held in the fall of 1964. The Europeans are agreeable that both the formal conference and the conference to agree on provisional arrangements be held in the United States if we so desire.

Industrial Participation by the European Countries in the Global System. On the one hand, the Europeans are most anxious to be in a position to make the maximum industrial and technical contribution to the global system. As they are considerably behind the United States in this field there is a tendency for them to attempt to delay implementation of an operational system to give them time to catch up. On the other hand, they also recognize the desirability, as a general political objective, of participating from the beginning in the structuring and management of a global system.

The really difficult area concerning industrial participation is their desire to provide launching services. Here, they are very far behind the United States and yet this is the “big money” in the field. Negotiations in this area will be difficult.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, SCI Central Files: Lot 65 D 473, TEL 6, August–December 1963. No classification marking. Drafted by William G. Carter. Copies were sent to Abram Chayes, Harlan Cleveland, and Ragnar Rollefson.