75. Memorandum of Conversation1



New York, November 1964


  • U.S.-Soviet Trade


  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Stevenson
    • Ambassador Thompson
    • Mr. Cleveland
    • Mr. R. H. Davis
    • Mr. A. Akalovsky
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Mr. Gromyko
    • Mr. Semenov
    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Ambassador Fedorenko
    • Mr. Smirnovskiy
    • Mr. Sukhodrev

The Secretary thanked Mr. Gromyko for the good reception given to the U.S. businessmen who recently visited Moscow.

Mr. Gromyko commented that he had detected among U.S. businessmen considerable interest in expanding U.S.-Soviet trade and that it was now up to the State Department to adopt a more forthcoming attitude.

The Secretary agreed that there was indeed some interest in furthering trade between the two countries. Senator Fulbright was to have hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee aimed at this objective. While any significant expansion would require changes in the present legislation, there were certain things which could be done within the existing law. However, he wished to note the practical problem of what the two countries could be interested in buying and selling. As he pointed out to Mr. Kosygin at Mr. Nehru’s funeral in New Delhi,2 [Page 185] the economies of our two countries are in many ways similar, so that it might be difficult to find commodities in which they could usefully trade. He remarked in a light vein that vodka and caviar were the obvious commodities we would be interested in buying from the Soviet Union, but one could not go very far only on that basis. In this connection, he thought it might be useful to have a strictly technical discussion of the commodities in which the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. could trade, putting aside for the moment the political aspects of the problem, such as lend-lease and the MFN question. Such a review should be conducted very quietly, perhaps at the Economic Counselor level and without any special delegations. Of course, the Soviet Economic Counselor in Washington could be supported by an expert sent from Moscow for this purpose. The Secretary thought that this study could be very useful in Congress, and particularly to Senator Fulbright in his hearings, since one of the first questions which was likely to arise would concern items the U.S. and U.S.S.R. could trade in.

Mr. Gromyko and Ambassador Dobrynin expressed interest in the Secretary’s idea and observed that as far as U.S. businessmen were concerned, they seemed to be interested in a number of Soviet commodities. For example, U.S. businessmen seemed to regard Soviet equipment for hydro-electrical plants to be superior to that produced in the U.S. and might be interested in buying it. The same applied to Soviet equipment for transmission of electrical power, as well as the Soviet-developed continuous casting process.

The Secretary wondered whether the Soviet Union was now interested in selling technology as distinct from equipment to which Mr. Gromyko replied in the affirmative and noted that the Soviet Union had sold licenses to a number of countries.

The Secretary then pointed out that there was another problem which should be kept in mind. While the Soviet Union, with its centralized system, could undertake specific commitments to perform under a trade arrangement, the U.S. was in a different position. With our free enterprise system, the U.S. Government could not direct private companies to sell to, or buy from, the Soviet Union. We would be interested in the experience the Soviet Union has had in this respect in its dealings with other Western countries.

Mr. Gromyko asked whether the U.S. would be willing to consider a trade agreement, noting that Under Secretary Ball had mentioned such a possibility on one occasion some time ago. The Secretary did not exclude such a possibility, but stressed that there were a number of political and technical problems involved in this matter, including those he had mentioned.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, FT USUSSR. Confidential. Drafted by Akalovsky and approved in S on December 8. The conversation took place in Rusk’s suite at a luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria and the memorandum is Part IV of VI. Part V, concerning Article 19, is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXXIII. Memoranda of the other parts, dealing with the UN Charter, the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on November 28, the Consular Convention, and disarmament, are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330. The Embassy in Moscow described the attack by 400–500 people and its protest to the Foreign Ministry in telegrams 1654 and 1659 from Moscow, November 28. (Ibid., Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–8 USSR)
  2. See Document 33.