423. Information Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Continuation of Voluntary Meat Import Restraint Program

Secretary Hardin has now announced that a voluntary restraint program will continue to limit U.S. meat imports in 1970. The announcement was delayed nearly two weeks because of problems with some of the supplying countries, particularly Mexico and Australia.2

The voluntary restraint agreements will allow the meat exporters an increase of about 1.5 percent over their 1969 allotments. (Our negotiators sold the package as a 4.4 percent increase, but the real increase is only 1.5 percent.) This was enough to gain agreement, because all of the suppliers preferred continued voluntary restraints to mandatory quotas, but none of the suppliers was pleased. All wanted higher restraint levels: the Australians because of their higher historic share of the U.S. market, the Mexicans because of their drought, and the Central Americans on the basis of their “special relations” with the U.S. and your October 31 speech.3

Giving in to any of these special pleas would have jeopardized agreement by other suppliers, however, unless we were willing to raise significantly the total amount of our meat imports. Secretary Hardin was unwilling to raise the total because of domestic political pressures. The agreed level is about 40 million pounds below the level which would require you to invoke mandatory import quotas which you could then waive only on the basis of “overriding economic or national security interests”. The mandatory quota level would be about 6 percent below the voluntary restraint total, although you could raise it if you concluded that domestic price conditions so warranted.

A new feature of the 1970 program is that all suppliers agree that we can apply our own controls against their meat shipments to us if they prove unable to themselves restrain their exporters within the [Page 1044]agreed levels. (This will apply particularly to some of the Latin Americans, whose administrative machinery is not very good, and was done with Honduras in late 1969.) The program thus comes quite close to a quota system without our bearing the normal onus of implementing one.

Australia, New Zealand and Ireland were unable to guarantee that their export restraints would effectively control shipments into the United States passing through other countries (particularly Canada), but they have no objection to our doing so. Agriculture will therefore ask you at some point to issue an executive order banning such imports.

Some of the meat supplying countries, especially Mexico, Australia, and the Central Americans are not pleased with the new agreements. The Latin American countries have already begun to complain and we can expect to have special requests from all of them soon. If you wish to meet the desires of the foreign suppliers, and give special treatment to the Latin Americans consistent with your October 31 policy statement, you will have to face the question of triggering the mandatory quotas and raising the overall level of meat imports. It will not be possible to make a special allocation for Latin America alone within the voluntary levels, as we did in late 1969, because the large suppliers have insisted that they share equally in any further allotments in return for their agreeing to continued voluntary restraints.

The pressures for higher meat import quotas from foreign suppliers may coincide with pressures which Secretary Hardin expects from domestic consumer interests seeking relief from high meat prices. If so, you will have to weigh all of these factors against the serious political opposition which can be expected from domestic meat producers. We will continue to maintain the voluntary restraint program for the pres-ent, but the issue may have to be reopened before long.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 351, Meat Import Policy. Limited Official Use. Forwarded to Kissinger under cover of a January 15 memorandum from Bergsten with a recommendation that he sign it.
  2. In his January 15 transmittal memorandum, Bergsten reported that Hardin announced the new program on January 12 instead of the December 31 target date.
  3. See Document 122.