46. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Thailand1

13154. Subject: Ambassador Sunthorn Meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary Barnett. Ref: Bangkok 508.2

On January 23, at Department’s initiative, Sunthorn met with Barnett to discuss rice situation. Sunthorn presented aide-mémoire3 which reviewed importance of rice to Thailand including importance of timing of export shipments and adverse effects of “cutting in effected by American shipments to South Viet-Nam and expected supplies to Indonesia.” Aide-mémoire concluded with statement “remedial measures of long-range effects are therefore essential.”
Sunthorn began by stating Thailand has between 1.3 and 1.4 million tons of rice to sell and suggested U.S. could find a way to dispose of surplus rice in a way that Thailand might participate in sales to above countries, especially brokens which India and Ceylon also [Page 105] use. Better grades of rice would be exported to traditional markets of Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
Barnett stated Thai should not imagine that we indifferent to or ignorant of problem, mentioning among other things Vice President’s discussion of problem in Bangkok. Also referred to Thai good fortune in having second opportunity sell 20,000 tons to SVN, which would compensate original frustrated sale.
Barnett then reviewed history of rice shortage in Asia and U.S. rice acreage increase to avoid potential famine followed by acreage cuts to restore world supply demand equilibrium. Then explained differences of various types of markets including (1) usual Thai commercial markets (i.e. Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore), (2) Indonesia, (3) Viet-Nam and Korea and reasons for rice requirements of each. Main distinction emphasized was difference between aid channels and normal commercial outlets. Mutual interests and benefits of greater stability in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, were stressed and rationale for assistance to Indonesia explained in detail.
Barnett mentioned long term problem of dependency on rice exports and expressed gratification of Thai progress in other areas such as corn. Viet-Nam and Indonesia were characterized as undependable and unpredicatable markets for Thai exports since, under normal circumstances, neither should be food importing countries. However, Barnett stressed that we not meeting all of Indonesia’s requirements and it up to Thai to compete for commercial rice imports which amounted to about 400,000 tons during past year.
Sunthorn indicated appreciation of our position and agreed with desirability of long range diversification and industrial development but stated that flexibility limited in short run.
Memcon4 and copy of aide-mémoire being pouched.
Re consultation procedures, we did not tell Sunthorn that present system would be changed to accommodate RTG. As Embassy aware, we do not initiate consultations until interagency approval of proposed program obtained. Consultation period of ten working days generally accepted by members FAO Consultative Subcommittee on Surplus Disposal and unilateral decision by U.S. to give additional time to any consultee would meet with opposition, including within U.S. Government. Regarding Embassy follow-up in Bangkok, including supplying material to local press, information on proposed agreements is not to be made public, although occasionally such information has been [is] leaked. Procedures have been set up for the simultaneous public release of information at the time of signing between the U.S. and [Page 106] the recipient government. On occasion, final agreements differ from the proposal communicated to the consultees. This is due not only because of consultation with third countries, but also subsequent negotiations with the recipient government. Thus, premature announcement proposal could prejudice U.S. position during negotiations as well as cause embarrassment to government with which we are negotiating.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, AID (US) 15–8 INDON. Confidential. Drafted by Joseph B. Kyle (E/ORF/ICD) and Walter West (EA/TB) on January 27; cleared by Dexter; and approved by Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert W. Barnett (EA).
  2. Dated January 12. (Ibid.)
  3. Not found.
  4. Not found.