118. Editorial Note

Representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom met March 16 and 17, 1972, for consultations on oil policy at the Department of State in Washington. Under Secretary of State John Irwin and James Akins, Director of the Office of Fuels and Energy, led the U.S. delegation. The British delegation head was Deputy Secretary for the Department of Trade and Industry, John G. Liverman. According to the summary portion of the memorandum of conversation, the meetings were held “to review the present situation in negotiations between the international oil companies and OPEC, and in an effort to assess future prospects for the oil industry and oil supplies for the consuming nations. The U.S. and U.K. sides established that there was a common estimation on most matters under discussion; that participation was inevitable, although the terms on which it might be accomplished remain unclear; and that the consumer nations should continue efforts to reduce their dependence on OPEC oil and should keep in close contact in order to strengthen their defense against demands by producing countries. Meetings were also held March 17 with representatives of the Department of State’s geographic bureaus, to discuss the political and economic situation in the various producing areas.”

The topics discussed by the two delegations included the Saudi participation negotiations, Iran, prospects for negotiation, information sharing, effects of participation, consumer government defenses, Iraq, Libya, Asian offshore, Venezuela, Algeria, Nigeria, Middle East/Arab-Israeli, U.S. import and tax policy, and the OECD Oil Committee.

Both sides agreed that in coming negotiations over participation “a middle road would have to be found between overly fast surrender of the companies’ rights, and intransigence leading to unilateral action by producer governments.” The “most important conclusion” was that “close contact be maintained between British and American officials, and with the respective companies, and that other consuming governments be kept informed of developments.” Both sides expressed strong concern that participation could present “substantial dangers to future investment and oil supply,” making measures for the reduction of dependence on OPEC oil essential. Irwin stated that the U.S. Government would be prepared “in certain circumstances” to make representations in OPEC capitals, but was not “as prepared as HMG to interfere with, rather than advise, the companies.” Liverman said that Great Britain did not intend to interfere with the negotiations, but would press its [Page 289]views on the companies if there were threats to supply. (Memorandum of conversation, March 1972; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, PET 1 UKUS)