9. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Proposed Elimination of Restrictions on PL 4802 Transactions with Communist Countries

You decided on February 2 to seek changes in our PL 480 legislation to relax the restrictions on sales to Communist countries.3 These changes were submitted as part of the over-all farm bill now under consideration in the Congress.

The House Agriculture Committee opposes our proposals. Chairman Poage4 particularly feels strongly that inclusion of these provisions would jeopardize the over-all farm package on the House floor. He thus wishes to keep them out of the bill. The main argument is that there is no need to legislate such changes now, since the proscription on PL 480 sales to countries trading with North Vietnam—which we did not seek to remove—will continue to be overriding for the duration of the war.

Bill Timmons suggests that the changes might fare better if made part of your proposals for a new U.S. foreign assistance program, when they are submitted in legislative form early next year (Tab A).5 The timing would be better and the Foreign Affairs Committee, rather than the [Page 15] Agriculture Committee, would have primary jurisdiction. Poage is also willing to contemplate an amendment at some later date, even later in this Congressional session after the over-all farm bill has passed.


That we not push these amendments now, but await a later opportunity when the Congressional situation for passing them appears more favorable.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 368, PL–480. Sent for action.
  2. Public Law 480, signed into law on July 10, 1954, was formally known as the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954.
  3. In a February 2 discussion with Kissinger, Secretary of Agriculture Clifford Hardin, Ehrlichman, and others, the President “asked whether we could write language into the bill [P.L.–480] to provide Presidential authority to waive the present restrictions. He wished to get us into position to have something with which to bargain with the Communist countries. As a practical matter, we cannot make subsidized sales to countries trading with North Vietnam. The present prohibition will thus over-ride until that situation changes, but it certainly could change.” Kissinger responded that the prohibition was “helpful” because it allowed the administration “to blame Congress when the issue comes up, as it did with Romania.” For a fuller record of the conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IV, Foreign Assistance, International Development, Trade Policies, 1969–1972, Document 313.
  4. W.R. Poage (D–Texas) Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. Neither the approval nor disapproval option was checked. A routing slip dated March 20 from John Brown III of the Chief of Staffʼs Office, attached to the front of the memorandum, reads: “Per Mr. Ehrlichmanʼs office there is no need for this memo to go to the President. His office agrees with Dr. Kissinger not to push on the amendments.” On April 14 Bergsten followed up in a memorandum to Kissinger: “In the memorandum at Tab A, Bill Timmons informs you that the House Committee on Agriculture has rejected the Presidentʼs request that PL 480 local currency sales be allowed for Communist countries, and that the USSR and China no longer be wholly excluded from any PL 480 sales. We had expected this development. You sent a memo to the President on March 11, informing him that the Committee would probably turn down the proposals.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 368, Subject Files, PL–480)