266. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • EC Trade Agreements with Spain

I am concerned that the position the US recently took in the GATT Council with respect to the Spanish-EC preferential trade agreement may result in serious restriction on the freedom of US military operations in Spain if not moderated.

The Spanish consider the arrangements they have made with the Economic Community a step in the direction of economic integration with the rest of Europe. Article 24 of the 1970 US-Spanish Agreement makes specific reference to the Spanish aspiration for such integration and the US promises both “sympathetic understanding” and “close contact” in seeking mutually satisfactory solutions for any problems that may arise. I feel it is important that we give serious consideration to this portion of the Agreement, especially in view of Spanish sensitivity involved.

At the most recent meeting of the US-Spanish Joint Committee on Defense Matters, Foreign Minister Lopez Bravo called the US intention to request consultation under Article 23 of the GATT an unfriendly action. He has made no secret of his view that the degree of Spanish cooperation in implementing the 1970 agreement, which gives us our military rights, will directly reflect US cooperation with Spain.

Under the 1970 Agreement, Spain can apply a variety of counter pressures that would in effect tie us down to an essentially static position in Spain. For example, the Spanish could delay or deny approvals for any change in US force levels or in use of facilities in Spain.

In view of the potential for significant damage to US military interests in Spain, I feel we must exercise great care to avoid unduly provoking the Government of Spain in the course of our efforts to advance important US economic and trade interests under the GATT. Towards this end, I strongly support the approach recommended by the Secretary of State in his 22 November memorandum,2 which would limit our actions to those specific cases where we can demonstrate actual damage to our trade, and seek appropriate compensations if the parties declined to make suitable adjustments. Such a course would adequately [Page 681]protect our economic interests without subjecting our base rights to the risk of political reprisals that would result from a more sweeping, generalized move against the Spain-EC Agreement.

Melvin R. Laird
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 230, DOD, Volume 15 1/72. Confidential.
  2. Document 258.