256. Editorial Note

At the end of July 1971 the Commission on International Trade and Investment Policy, chaired by Albert L. Williams, completed its 3-volume report to the President, entitled United States International Economic Policy in an Interdependent World (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1971). Unlike Governor Rockefeller’s 1969 report on his mission to Latin America (released to the public in November) and the March 1970 Report of the Task Force on International Development (see Documents 122 and 128), no particular notice was given to the Williams Commission Report when it was completed. According to the President’s Daily Diary for the last week of July and the month of August, the President met with neither Williams nor the members of his Commission. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)

Economic policymakers were preoccupied with other matters. Foreign exchange markets were in turmoil, and in early August the stage was set for the announcement on August 15 of the President’s New Economic Policy, which, on the international economic front, suspended the convertibility of the dollar to gold and imposed a 10 percent surcharge on all dutiable imports, setting in process fundamental international monetary reform. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume III, Documents 109 ff.

According to an August 2 memorandum from Ernest Johnston to Henry Kissinger, there were reservations about the report itself. Johnston reported that Peter Peterson was considering whether it should be released, and how much publicity to give it. Johnston [Page 656] believed it would be futile to attempt to suppress the report, and he did not object to some publicity upon release, including a possible presentation to the President, provided there was no endorsement of its substance beyond a neutral statement that the administration would study its recommendations. Kissinger wrote “Agree” next to the suggestion in Johnston’s memorandum that it would be best to down-play publicity and that the report be released as quietly as possible. No record of any White House publicity in connection with the Williams Commission Report was found.

On the substance of the 400-page report, Johnston indicated that it sought to bridge fundamental differences among the 28 members of the Commission, and thus contained a number of contradictions. The report recommended continuation of a liberal trade policy and greater exchange rate flexibility, but also contained a number of specific trade recommendations at variance with the liberal trade posture that Johnston feared would be seized upon by protectionists, e.g., greater resort to export restraint agreements under some circumstances, as was being done with shoes and textiles.

Johnston also reported that the Commission recommended, if other balance-of-payments measures failed, a temporary, across-the-board surcharge on imports and subsidy to exports as recommended by House Ways and Means Chairman Wilbur Mills. Next to this point Kissinger wrote: “Already done.” Johnston added that the report favored tariff preference legislation that was more restrictive than the scheme the administration had under consideration. Johnston’s memorandum bears the stamp “HAK has seen,” above the handwritten date of August 25. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 402, Trade, Volume IV 7-12/71)