355. Telegram From the Under Secretary of State (Richardson) to Secretary of State Rogers1

WH 9440/44766. From the Under Secretary. I am sending you our redraft, cleared by Samuels, of the Presidential memorandum on STR2 which we have just returned to Bob Ellsworth. If you can find the opportunity, I think it would be useful to discuss this with the President, together with Henry Kissinger if you wish, during your current trip.3

March 22, 1969.

Issue for Presidential Decision: Should the Office of the Special Trade Representative be retained within the Executive Office of the President or placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce?

Whether foreign trade policy should be separated from the rest of foreign relations is a principal issue of disagreement. State favors retention of the office in the White House, while Commerce wants it to be moved to its jurisdiction. Treasury4 and the Budget Bureau have directly submitted views supporting retention.

The arguments are summarized below.

Arguments for placing STR under commerce:

Foreign trade policy should be separated from other aspects of international relations and should be placed within the jurisdiction of a department where it will receive primary attention.
The Commerce Department is the most logical Department for the STR because of the Department’s involvement with export expansion, foreign investment and domestic industry.
There is a general advantage in reducing the number of independent offices which in theory report directly to the President, but to which in fact he can give little, if any, attention.

Arguments for retaining STR within the Executive Office of the President:

Removal of the STR function from the White House, where it has gained recognition and stature for adherence to a policy of reciprocal [Page 779] liberal trade, would be interpreted both in the US and abroad as indicating a retreat from this policy. This would be particularly true at a time when we shall be endeavoring to persuade foreign countries to agree to a voluntary restraint on textile exports to the United States. It also would tend to raise questions about the meaning of the President’s position on trade policy stated in his recent press conferences and his trip to Europe.
International trade policy is integrally related to our total monetary and financial, diplomatic, political and military effort, and is not separable for purposes of policy determination or negotiation. It would be difficult for a government department whose main responsibility necessarily lies in the domestic sphere to bring into consideration and focus the overall foreign policy considerations relating to trade.
STR has no constituency of its own that limits its objectivity; it provides a mechanism for taking into account the diverse domestic and foreign policy interests that need to be weighed in determining the national interest; it gives trade policy and negotiations its full time; it has wide public and Congressional support; and it has a record of tough and effective negotiation.
Congress recognized the need to have a representative independent of the regular departments to deal with trade matters. In 1962, the Senate Finance Committee noted: “The committee felt that the chairman, if he was chosen from one of the departments, would represent more the views of that department than the overall broader perspective represented by the Special Representative.” This view was reaffirmed by Congressman Mills and Senator Long last fall in a conference committee executive session on trade legislation.
The transfer from STR to Commerce would not reduce the burden on the White House. On the basis of past experience and the nature of the trade problem, frequent appeals from various agencies are likely. Ultimately a new STR would emerge within the President’s official family.

Elliot Richardson.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 403, Office of the Special Trade Representative. Confidential; Eyes Only. Rogers was with the President at San Clemente, California.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 353.
  3. No record of such a discussion has been found.
  4. See Document 354.