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

SUBJECT

  • Export Control Act—Administration Position Defeated in Conference

A House-Senate conference committee has voted out an Export Control bill which includes the key liberalizing Senate language requiring us to permit export of all items not explicitly controlled, instead of our present authority to control all items not explicitly decontrolled. (The other key provision which I discussed with you on Wednesday2 was resolved in our favor.)

This would put us under heavy pressure to decontrol a wide range of items, both because of the new legal requirement and because this provision is the main manifestation of the Senate’s liberalizing intentions. It would thus represent a signal to the Soviets of significant U.S. liberalization.

The conference bill can come to the floors as early as next Wednesday. It cannot be amended on the floor. Thus, the only way to [Page 799]change its language is for at least one house to defeat the bill in its entirety and call for a new conference.

Based on our conversation on Wednesday, I assumed that the President continues to strongly oppose any liberalization at this time. I thus held a meeting today of the relevant officials from Commerce, State and Bryce Harlow’s office. The legislative strategists agreed that the best approach was to ask Gerry Ford to send a letter to all members of the House, indicating that the Administration opposed the conference bill.

With such a letter, they think there is a good chance to defeat the bill on the House floor. We could then seek changes in the key provision when it returned to conference with a good chance to prevail because of the House rejection of the Senate language.

Harlow, however, now tells me that the President told him this week not to make a major effort on this issue. Harlow therefore opposes the plan described here, which would be fairly unusual in that it would seek to override a conference report. His alternative is to try to build some legislative history on the floors which would permit us to go on administering the controls as at present.

The success of such an approach is dubious, however, given the long buildup to date to the contrary. An effort to defeat the bill on the House floor would thus be necessary if, contrary to Harlow’s report, the President feels strongly about avoiding any liberalization at this time.

Recommendation:

If the President wants to strongly oppose any liberalization of the Export Control Act, contrary to Harlow’s report, that you inform Harlow to that effect and enlist him to pursue the legislative tactics outlined above.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 401, Trade General, Volume I. Limited Official Use. At the top of the page Kissinger wrote: “Let me raise tomorrow morning with Harlow. Nov 12—Also with President.” The President was in Key Biscayne and the Bahamas November 7-9, but talked with Kissinger by phone each day, and the two met daily at the White House November 10-12. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Another handwritten notation at the top of the page indicates that action was completed on December 4.
  2. November 5. The discussion has not been identified.