371. Letter From Secretary of Commerce Stans to Secretary of State Rogers1

Dear Bill:

In trying to develop a focus for discussions between us regarding the improvement of commercial services in our embassies, I have developed the attached two papers. This letter explains the reasoning behind them.

I believe there is strong evidence that:

Other important nations place greater emphasis on trade, investment, and other commercial matters in the work of their embassies than does the United States.
There is a considerable volume of criticism by American businessmen of the quality of service and quality of personnel in our foreign commercial staffs overseas.

In our first meeting on this subject, we agreed that for the purpose of our discussions we would not attempt to take the time required to document fully these two points, and I hope that we can sustain this agreement.

In any event, it is our opinion in Commerce that major changes are desirable in order to provide the kind of service in our foreign representation that is warranted by the importance of international trade and investment to our balance of payments and to our entire domestic and international economic posture. It is our opinion that this should involve a much greater degree of participation on the part of the Department of Commerce, and a much greater degree of sincere cooperation between our two departments than is currently the case.

Our thinking on this subject has led us to consider two basic alternatives:

The transfer of the commercial representation including the commercial attachés (and possibly the economic attachés) to the Department of Commerce, and the development of new programs and procedures to strengthen their function and performance; or
A reordering of the priorities of the State Department to place commercial activities in the embassies at the highest level, as the British and other nations have obviously done, and thereupon developing the relationships between our two departments to carry out that determination.

[Page 806]

I have reviewed the series of proposals in your proposed letter to Ambassadors, attached to your memorandum to the President written some time ago,2 and believe that they are inadequate to achieve the necessary improvements. My comments on them are in Memorandum A attached.3

Memorandum B attached4 contains a series of proposals which outline what I believe to be a minimum basic understanding short of the transfer of the overseas commercial responsibilities to this Department that would resolve the problem. I submit them to you in all sincerity as a potential alternative solution for what we consider to be a very pressing and very substantial problem requiring major attention at this time.5


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 1 COM–STATE. No classification marking.
  2. Document 363.
  3. Comments on State Department Proposals With Reference to Foreign Commercial Activities; not printed. Macomber and Trezise advised Rogers in a September 24 memorandum that Stans had rejected virtually all the points made in the proposed letter to Ambassadors. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 1 COM–STATE)
  4. Memorandum B is attached but not printed; see Document 376 which lists Stans’ 14 proposals.
  5. In a brief reply, September 26, Rogers stated that he had passed Stans’ letter to Macomber and expected it would contribute to the ongoing consultations between Macomber and Under Secretary of Commerce Siciliano. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 1 COM–STATE) Rogers replied point by point to Stans’ proposals in a letter sent 14 months later, on November 22, 1971; see Document 376.