351. Memorandum From C. Fred Bergsten of the Operations Staff, National Security Council to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Meeting at 5:00 p.m. Today on the Future of STR

A Cabinet-level meeting has just been called for 5:00 p.m. today to decide whether the Office of the Special Trade Representative will continue independently within the White House. The alternatives are to give it to Commerce as proposed to the President by Secretary Stans and vigorously opposed by State and others; to give it to State, which doesn’t want it; or to abolish it altogether with the Departments left to battle for supremacy in the trade policy field. (Attached is the first draft of the NSSM 16 options paper on the subject.)2

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As I informed you in my memorandum of March 4,3 vital substantive issues are involved in this ostensibly administrative question. The U.S. has traditionally viewed trade in a foreign policy framework, and hence State and the NSC staff, within the White House, have taken the lead. The creation of STR in 1962, however, was an effort—which has proved successful—to reconcile the foreign policy and domestic business viewpoints. Any further shift from our present organizational approach, especially toward Commerce Department control, would be interpreted abroad as a clear signal that the U.S. was going protectionist and would seriously endanger the credibility of the President’s commitment to liberal trade policies.

Tremendous external pressures for a decision on the subject—mainly in favor of retaining an independent STR, and in response to Secretary Stans’ attempted takeover—have developed in the past few weeks. Hence the earlier decision to await the result of our NSC trade study probably cannot be held.

Given the important foreign policy implications of the decision, particularly in view of the President’s trip and the trade issues raised during it, the NSC should certainly be represented at today’s meeting. (The meeting will be chaired by Ellsworth and attended by Stans, Richardson, Burns, Flanigan, and the Budget Bureau.) Ellsworth has agreed with his staff’s recommendation that the NSC staff be invited but has limited the invitation to you personally.


That you attend the meeting at 5:00 p.m. personally, taking the position that STR should be continued as an independent agency within the White House; or

That you call Ellsworth and urge him to invite me to represent you at the meeting.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 403, Office of the Special Trade Representative. Limited Official Use. Sent for action.
  2. The options paper is attached but not printed.
  3. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IV, Foreign Assistance, International Development, Trade Policies, 1969–1972, Document 186.
  4. A handwritten note at the top of page 1 reads: “Dr K did not attend meeting.” Kissinger explained why in Document 352. Bergsten reported to Kissinger on the meeting in Document 353.