174. Editorial Note

On June 11 and 12, 1973, National Security Council staff member Charles Cooper produced numerous memoranda on the foreign policy implications of export controls, varying according to the status of the impending Presidential decision for or against controls. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 368, Subject Files, PL–480) On June 11, after being informed that Cooper was preparing a revised memorandum to the President on the issue, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger wrote to President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs Brent Scowcroft: “We must get on top of nature of controls.” (Undated note attached to a June 11 memorandum from Cooper to Scowcroft; ibid.) The next day, in a memorandum to Scowcroft, Cooper commented, “Until we know [Page 652] how the decision stands, there is little we can actually do.” Cooper then proposed two plans of action, depending on whether export controls would be imposed immediately or at a later time. (Ibid., Box 403, Subject Files, Trade, Vol. VI, April 8–December 1973)

Part of the confusion surrounding the imposition of export controls owed to an ongoing debate within the administration as to whether the President had the legal authority to impose such controls. On June 12, Council of Economic Advisers member Gary Seevers wrote the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Herbert Stein, that neither the Department of Commerce nor the Department of Agriculture believed that it could legally sanction immediate export controls under the terms of the Export Administration Act. This left, Seevers noted, imposing controls under the authority of the Trading with the Enemy Act or asking Congress for new authority to do so. Seevers also briefly reported on the issue of the allocation of quotas, were controls to be imposed. Stein forwarded Seevers’s paper to Secretary of the Treasury George Shultz, noting that he had “referred the legal question about export controls to the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice for a quick opinion.” (Ibid., RG 56, Records of Secretary of the Treasury George P. Shultz, 1971–1974, Entry 166, Box 4, Export Controls 1973 GPS)

President Richard Nixon announced a new price control program on the evening of June 13. The measures included a temporary freeze of all prices, except rents and unprocessed agricultural goods at the farm-level, as well as planning for a new system of price controls that would take effect no later than 60 days thereafter. The President stated that he would also ask Congress for the authority to impose export controls, which would be applied to grains. Nixon remarked: “In exercising such authority, this will be my policy: We will keep the export commitments we have made as a nation. We shall also consult with other countries to seek their cooperation in resolving the worldwide problem of rising food prices. But we will not let foreign sales price meat and eggs off the American market.” For the President’s remarks, as well as a full account of the measures he announced that evening, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, pages 584–587.

Cooper and Scowcroft did have the opportunity to review at least a part of the text of the President’s speech before he delivered it. On June 13, Scowcroft forwarded some wording changes suggested by Cooper to White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig, adding, “In addition, it would appear that the speech could result in a speculative rush on agricultural commodities in anticipation of the controls to be imposed. This perhaps has been taken care of elsewhere in the speech but from this portion it appears that it could be a problem.” Cooper put it more bluntly in his note to Scowcroft: “The problem of a possible speculative market reaction is a substantive one—this language, at [Page 653] a minimum, would require an immediate follow-up briefly. Is one being prepared? If so, how do we influence it, or do we?” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 321, Subject Files, Economic Speech (June 73))