185. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Under Secretaries Committee (Irwin) to President Nixon 1


  • Results of Initial Steps Toward Augmentation of Travel and Trade Between the People’s Republic of China and the United States, and Recommendations for Further Steps to be Taken

The memorandum and study appended at Tab A respond to your request of June 9, 1971.2 They were delayed in preparation, with the agreement of the NSC Staff, to allow further time for assessment of U.S. initiatives vis-à-vis the People’s Republic of China, and in part because of the difficulties encountered in the reconciliation of widely divergent viewpoints.

The most important problem dealt with is the question of a) whether the PRC should be afforded equality with the USSR in respect to commodities and products of technology available for export to them under general license and b) if so, when these actions should be accomplished. On point a) the majority, including State and Commerce, believes that full equality should be afforded as part of a general process of bringing our trade policies with the PRC and the USSR into alignment. Defense objects on the grounds that different levels of [Page 653] military, industrial and technological development of the PRC require different criteria for decontrolling items for general license export to the PRC until such time as experience provides a basis for bringing our trade policies in closer alignment. On point b) the majority, including Defense and Commerce, believes that the principles of gradualness and reciprocity should be given full weight.

The Department of State believes that the earlier and more thoroughly our policies on trade with the PRC are brought into line with those toward the USSR, the greater the likelihood of favorable impact upon U.S.–PRC relations. State therefore favors early implementation of the recommendations in this paper.

The recommendations of the Committee are summarized in my report which is attached. They are more fully described with their relative advantages and disadvantages in Annex A to my report.3

Where different viewpoints occurred, the agency dissenting from the majority viewpoint has in each case presented its position in a footnote. Such footnotes express the view of the author agency only. Because of the desire to allow full expression of dissent, and the inability of the drafting committee to accede unanimously to dissenting viewpoints, I believe that the current format of the memorandum is more responsive to your desire to see all the options than any other practical alternative. Accordingly, the suggestion of Secretary Laird to redraft the memorandum (Tab B) was partly but not wholly accommodated.3

The concurrence of the Department of Commerce which explains its position more fully is appended at Tab C.4

John N. Irwin II
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, General Files on NSC Matters: Lot 73 D 288, NSCU/SM Memoranda, 1972. Secret.
  2. See Document 131 and footnote 12 thereto.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Attached but not printed. Holdridge forwarded these materials to Kissinger on February 2. In a February 10 memorandum to the President, Kissinger summarized three recommendations presented in the Under Secretaries Committee’s report: 1) Place the PRC in the same commodity control group as the Soviet Union; 2) Abolish the FAC regulations requiring U.S. firms in COCOM nations to obtain licenses from the Treasury Department for the export of strategic goods to the PRC; and 3) Delay consideration of the sale of aircraft, cotton textiles, PRC and U.S. claims, and ship or aircraft visits until after the trip. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 86, Country Files, Far East, U.S. China Policy, 1969–1972) In a February 11 memorandum for the record, Eliot wrote that Haig had called him to inform him that the President had approved the recommendations. (Ibid., RG 59, General Files on NSC Matters: Lot 73 D 288, NSCU/SM Memoranda, 1972) Ziegler announced the relaxation of export controls on February 14. (Department of State Bulletin, March 6, 1972, p. 291. Kissinger also informed the Departments of Justice, Treasury, Defense, Commerce, State, and the CIA through NSDM 155, issued on February 17. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–232, NSDM Files, NSDM 155)