96. Editorial Note

In a meeting on August 4, 1975, President Gerald Ford informed his Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger, and his Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs, Brent Scowcroft, that British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt were all “concerned [Page 315] about their economic problems and the impact. I get the impression my economic advisors are too carried away with our program. I would like an EPB meeting to describe the European situation. Would you prepare a briefing paper on my talks, so I can explain, indicate my sympathy and desire for closer cooperation. If we recover and Europe’s economies don’t, we could be in big trouble.” (Memorandum of conversation, August 4; Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 14)

The following day, President Ford told Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki, who was in Washington on an official visit, “If we are to combat some of the trends that will come if we have bad economic conditions, we must try to work together. My impression of what Giscard, Wilson and Schmidt said is that if we don’t improve the economic climate, the political climate could have an adverse effect on the developed industrial nations of the world. Japan has a big stake in this. Therefore we talked in general about the problem without any commitment, but we all felt that it could be disastrous for democratic government if we were to have adverse economic conditions develop in the future. Our economic picture is improving, but we can’t do it alone—we have to coordinate how we can work together to achieve a coordinated plan. We wish to work with you because your re-election is vital to Japan and the industrial nations we represent.” Later in the conversation, Prime Minister Miki said, “I agree with your remarks, Mr. President, on Giscard’s proposal for a five-power economic conference, and did so publicly in the press, that is that a preliminary conference would be required to establish an agenda. I would hope that this would come as a U.S. initiative. I believe Giscard’s proposal to discuss only monetary problems is too ‘narrow,’ and the five advanced industrial powers should discuss the full spectrum of economic matters.” President Ford replied, “I think we should proceed on an informal basis, rather than formal. I don’t know your situation, but I think an informal arrangement—for discussions by a person you would name, and persons named by Giscard, Wilson and Schmidt—would be a better way to lay the groundwork. We have a great mutual interest in doing something, but the minute this becomes formal, it complicates my problems at home. What we want is results, not public acclaim. We want success, and economic success would be of the greatest importance economically and politically from the standpoint of the developed industrial nations. Our situation looks good, but we can’t go it alone. All the nations should improve their economic circumstances if we are to be successful as nations in the free world.” Prime Minister Miki then asked whether President Ford “would agree to convene a five-power conference as long as preparations are made in informal talks,” to which the President replied, “Generally, yes, but that depends on how well the representatives of the five powers lay the foundation. [Page 316] It would be disastrous if we entered negotiations at the Summit with disagreements among us. We should agree in advance to coordinate our views.” Prime Minister Miki agreed. The President finished this portion of the conversation by noting: “We would agree to hold the conference if there are adequate preparations, but if there are disagreements, we could not hold it.” (Memorandum of conversation, August 5; ibid.)

On August 6, President Ford indicated to Prime Minister Miki that he wanted former Secretary of the Treasury George Shultz to represent the United States in any preliminary talks to establish a basis for the economic summit. (Memorandum of conversation, August 6; ibid.) Two days later, Kissinger reported to the President: “I talked to Shultz about the economic summit. I think it best for George to see Schmidt, Wilson, Giscard next week to get their concrete ideas. It would show you giving it quick attention and allow George to assess whether we should pursue it. If it looks good, we could have the private meeting and then the summit. From a non-economic view, I think it has merit in showing action. I know Treasury fears they will try to euchre you into something unfavorable. But I doubt that, and why would you agree? I think you are getting the image as the leader of the Western industrial world.” (Memorandum of conversation, August 8; ibid.)

In an August 12 message to President Giscard, President Ford wrote: “Secretary Kissinger and I have given a great deal of thought to the question of an economic summit since you and I reviewed the proposal when we met recently in Helsinki. As a next step, I would now like to suggest that I send former Secretary of the Treasury George Shultz to Paris for further discussions with you on the matter. He could, if you are willing to meet with him, explore what you have in mind with regard to the summit and report back to me on his conversations with you. If my suggestion meets with your approval I would be grateful if you could let me know when a visit by Mr. Shultz would be convenient.” (Ibid., KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 12, France—General (2) (4/4/75–10/1/75)) President Ford apparently sent a similar message to Chancellor Schmidt. An August 28 message from the Chancellor to the President refers to an August 12 message from President Ford. (Ibid., Box 35, West Germany (4) (6/7/75–12/10/75))