428. Memorandum From the President’s Special Counsel (Colson) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Meat Import Quotas

With respect to your memorandum to the President of March 9, 1970,2 I would like to suggest that further thought be given to Option 1 and that Option 3 not be adopted, at least at this time. I don’t think that the President has been made aware of all of the ramifications of Options 1 and 3.

Implementing Option 3 at this time would: [Page 1053]

1.
Be extremely embarrassing for Secretary Hardin, who, with the President’s approval in January, announced that voluntary restrictions had been negotiated at the level of 1,062,000 pounds (see Palmby memo attached as Tab A);3
2.
Would create severe domestic political problems with the cattle industry and with a number of Senators and Congressmen, principally from Rocky Mountain states (see Timmons memo attached as Tab B);4
3.
Would run totally counter to our policy of avoiding mandatory quotas and intensify demands of shoe and textile interests for mandatory quotas;
4.
Would make it more difficult to return to a voluntary system in the future; and
5.
Is unnecessary at this time.

I do not think that Option 1 fully states all future alternatives available to the President if he does nothing now. If, as a result of transshipments via third countries, the trigger level is approached, the President (a) can order mandatory quotas at any level he determines justifiable, (b) waive quotas altogether, (c) waive quotas and make new voluntary agreements at a higher level, or (d) sign the Executive Order preventing transshipments, if and when the trigger level is reached.

At the present rate of transshipments, the statute would not be triggered this year. If the transshipments should increase or if countries should violate the voluntary agreements in any way, the statute would not be triggered for several months. Agriculture does have means of enforcing the voluntary agreements. Therefore, why prejudge the situation now? Economic and political considerations might be very different if and when that happens.

Paul McCracken has been conducting a study of meat prices at the President’s request, which I understand will be ready later this week.5 Certainly no decision should be made until we have the benefit of Paul’s study.

John Ehrlichman, Bryce Harlow, Peter Flanigan, John Whitaker, Paul McCracken, Hendrik Houthakker and the Department of Agriculture concur with this memorandum.

I think it is our general consensus that we can very well afford to wait perhaps until June. If, of course, transshipments increase the President [Page 1054]could sign the Executive Order and then later on renegotiate the voluntary agreement. Hopefully the transshipments will not increase and we can reach some decision based on the facts available to us in June.

I assume that you will want to prepare another memo to the President reflecting these views so that he can decide, based on the foregoing, whether or not he wishes to rescind the approval he gave to your memo of March 9. If you will let me know how you wish to handle this, I am sure that it can be staffed quickly on this end.

Whatever we do, I would think we should keep the President’s options open as long as possible, cause minimum political controversy domestically and, if possible, avoid mandatory quotas which have very adverse trade implications.

Charles W. Colson
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 351, Meat Import Policy. No classification marking. Attached to a March 14 memorandum from Colson to Ehrlichman which reads: “Per your request I am enclosing a copy of my memorandum to Henry Kissinger, with which you concurred yesterday along with the earlier memo which the President signed off on which was prepared by Bergsten. Haig has the Bergsten memo—the one that says that the memo of March 9 had been staffed by everyone.” The Bergsten memorandum has not been found.
  2. Document 426.
  3. Document 427.
  4. Timmons’ March 10 memorandum to Colson is not printed. Timmons wrote in part: “The President’s most loyal friends in the Senate—Hruska, Hansen, Bellmon, Dole, Allott, Miller, Curtis, et al—have been adamant in their opposition to increased imports of foreign meats.”
  5. Not further identified.