103. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Panama1

265742. Subject: U.S.-Panama Treaty Negotiations: Preparing for the Next Negotiating Round. For the Ambassador from Bell.

1. Conversations with Gonzalez-Revilla and with media representatives who recently visited Panama indicate that the Panamanians are expecting too much from the United States in the next round, or at least regard it as a most important one. As usual their reasoning is unclear.

2. We are doing what we can here to alter that line of thinking, but believe that you and your key officers can do much more there by way of preparing the proper mentality, and would appreciate your help.

3. These are the points to be made:

(a) The next round can be regarded as a “routine” one. That is, it is the first of many in a new negotiating stage, during which the parties settle down to “steady progress”—neither rapid nor slow but “careful”, and uninterrupted.

(b) The objective of this stage is a set of tentative agreements “in concept” on the remaining issues.

(c) That objective can only be reached by the negotiators of both parties proceeding into “hard, methodical bargaining”.

(d) The basis for such bargaining has now been established by the presentation of Panama’s counter-offer of October 29 to the United States’ offer of September 5.2

Parenthetically, those documents may be too comprehensive and thus too complex to handle as a “package”. Accordingly the United [Page 272]States would be quite willing to break out components of them to deal with, one after the other.

(e) In any case, no “breakthrough” or dramatic negotiating progress should be expected from the next round.

(f) Finally and most importantly, the United States’ offer represented a significant movement toward Panama’s positions on many issues.3 Unfortunately we cannot perceive any true movement toward the United States’ positions in Panama’s counter-offer. In the next round the United States will need to perceive some movement by Panama. In its absence, the United States would have little choice but to doubt that Panama is in a mood to bargain and, it follows, is not serious about negotiating at this point in history.

4. We would also appreciate hearing of reactions in key Panamanian circles to the foregoing “message”.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 84, American Embassy, Panama, Panama Canal Treaty Negotiation Files, Lot 81F1, Box 125, POL 33.3–2/Canal Treaty Negotiations/General, July–Dec 1975. Confidential; Priority. Also sent Priority to CINCSO and the Panama Canal Zone Governor.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 102.
  3. A chart dated November 1 comparing the U.S. and Panamanian negotiating positions is in the National Archives, RG 59, Ambassador Bunker’s Correspondence, Lot 78D300, Box 3, General.
  4. In telegram 6993 from Panama City, November 13, the Embassy reported that Panamanian officials had described the U.S. position as representing “little or no progress.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D750396–0274)