104. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1


  • US-Canada Joint Cabinet Meeting, November 23–24, 1970

The most striking single aspect of our visit to Ottawa for one of our periodic Joint Cabinet sessions was the preoccupying, almost obsessive, concern of the Canadians for the survival of the Confederation.

Canadian ministers and officials spoke freely in private conversations about the possibility of a break-up of the country, even speculating about what choices might then be made by the different regions and provinces. In the formal discussions, the dominating Canadian theme was the search for national unity. And as is to be expected, attitudes toward the United States are colored by this constant concern for holding Canada together. To some extent, in fact, the US serves as a convenient whipping boy for Canadian politicians: at the Liberal Party conference in Ottawa over the weekend, participants wore lapel buttons bearing the slogan “I’m for An Independent Canada,” that is, independent of the United States. I thought that it would be desirable to say that all Americans also favor an independent Canada and I issued a brief statement (copy appended) to the press to that effect.2

Despite the atmosphere and atmospherics, the discussions themselves proved to be quite useful.

We edged closer toward an understanding on trade in petroleum and other fuels and we now should be able to decide promptly on the procedure to govern 1971 imports of crude oil from Canada.3

There was a fairly spirited exchange on environmental problems, with the Canadians taking the view that we are less devoted than we might be to implementing the International Joint Commission recommendations (actually still to be made in final form) for helping to clean [Page 409] up Lake Erie. I will have this complaint examined as a matter of urgency.

The Canadians expressed their customary worries about the large role of US investors in Canadian economic life. We took the position that Canada must make its own decisions in this area, always assuming that our people will be given equitable and non-discriminatory treatment, and that we do not seek to impose our investments on anyone. (I made a special point to Mitchell Sharp about our absolute opposition to any retroactive rules that might be applied to US investments in Canada.) The Canadians face a dilemma: there is evidently widespread unease at the very large place foreign investment has in Canada’s economy; yet without a continuing infusion of capital from abroad it will be difficult to reduce the intolerably high levels of unemployment now prevailing in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. And unless Canada can do something about unemployment, separatist sentiment will grow.

There was a good exchange between David Kennedy and Paul McCracken and Finance Minister Benson and Louis Rasminsky of the Bank of Canada on the economic situation and the balance of payments. Canada has been wrestling with inflation and with very serious regional unemployment and is now seeking to return to a growth economy. The Canadians expect that their unusually strong balance of payments position will deteriorate as the economy expands. This of course will benefit our exports and our balance of payments.

The Canadians emphasized the political sensitivity that attaches to our East-West trade controls as they apply, at least potentially, to US firms located in Canada. I find that Secretaries Stans and Kennedy would be happy to join with State in looking for a way to eliminate this issue from US-Canadian relations, and we shall proceed to see what can be done.

The Canadians saw nothing much more in the way of trade from their new relationship with Communist China, but they believed that recognition was a proper step. They think that the seating of Communist China is foregone. The place of Taiwan in the UN, in Canadian eyes, is a separate issue.

We had the expected debates on our trade policy and on the US-Canada automobile agreement, plus a no controversy conversation about our joint wish that the enlargement of the European Communities will come out in a way compatible with US and Canadian commercial preoccupations.

At Pierre Trudeau’s dinner last night for the two Cabinet delegations, he spoke most solemnly about his concerns with Quebec separatism and with the alienation of the young in Canada. He spoke most warmly about your telephone call to him at the time of the kidnapping [Page 410] crisis,4 remarking with some emotion that you had been considerate enough to call him when you were in the midst of a more than usually busy schedule.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 670, Country Files—Europe, Canada, Vol. II. Confidential.
  2. Not printed. For the text of Rogers’s statement, see Department of State Bulletin, December 14, 1970, p. 730. The text of the Joint United States-Canadian Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs joint communiqué is ibid., pp. 730–732.
  3. Much additional documentation on U.S.-Canadian discussions on petroleum is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXVI, Energy Crisis, 1969–1974.
  4. Terrorists of the separatist Front for the Liberation of Quebec seized the senior British Trade Commissioner, James Cross, on October 5. On October 10, they kidnapped the Minister of Labour and Immigration for Quebec, Pierre Laporte. Efforts to secure the men’s release deadlocked on terrorist demands. On October 17, the terrorists murdered Laporte. The Canadian Government invoked emergency powers and rounded up nearly 400 extremists. The terrorists released Cross in exchange for safe passage to Cuba on December 3.