109. Memorandum for the President’s File by the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Monday, December 6, 1971, 4:00–6:00 p.m., the Oval Office


  • The President
  • Prime Minister Trudeau
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Mr. Ivan Head, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister

The opening few minutes of the meeting were filmed by an NBC–TV film crew for a program on “A Day in the Life of the President.”

The President began the conversation by saying that he should have thought of such a meeting earlier and was glad the Prime Minister raised the matter. Dr. Kissinger remarked that the Prime Minister accepted the invitation in record time. Prime Minister Trudeau thanked the President for receiving him now. Earlier he had been convinced that a spring meeting would be sufficient, and he had been taking the position publicly that he and the President were always in contact. But when the White House began announcing the series of bilateral meetings with allies, he had no choice but to go along. “We have both had a bad press,” the Prime Minister remarked. “Each of us is accused of neglecting the other.” The President said that he agreed, and that was why he had agreed so quickly to having the meeting.

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At the Prime Minister’s suggestion, they turned to the agenda. Neither the President nor the Prime Minister wanted to get into a technical discussion, the President expressing complete confidence in Secretary Connally’s handling of the technical side.2

The Prime Minister noted that the President’s decisions of August 15 actually only accelerated reconsiderations of Canadian policy that were going on in any event. Canada was in a tough position. She had a trade surplus but a problem with invisibles. If the U.S. was talking about a secular trend where some years the U.S. exported more and other years Canada exported more, this was one thing; but if we were saying that Canada must always be in a deficit position towards the U.S. so that the U.S. could always export capital to Canada—then we were asking them to sell part of their country to us. The Prime Minister did not believe that a country becomes more independent by being poorer. The question for Canada then was, should she choose a common market or free trade area or political integration, or should she gear towards more independence in order to be more autonomous of fluctuations in U.S. policy?

The President noted that the Prime Minister had raised the fundamental question of the U.S.-Canadian relationship. We were clearly eager to have Canada close to us, and many politicians would seek their own interest. The President began with some simple propositions: (1) We all had to begin by looking at the national interest. (2) He did not look at the issue in narrow parochial terms. (3) The U.S. had a world responsibility and we expected to discharge it. We did not like the August 15 decisions but they had to be taken. A strong United States was essential to world stability; a healthy U.S. economy was crucial even to Canada. Much of our problem was due to the transition from war to peace. Henry was the saddest of all when the decisions were taken, from his political point of view. But the U.S. would be a sound and responsible member of the international community.

We could get the Canadian situation into perspective by including all other countries in the solution, the President continued. Thirty per cent of all our exports went to Canada. At the same time, there was the intricate problem of reforming the whole international monetary system. The U.S. did not want to go back to convertibility. But we wanted to understand what Canada wanted. The President thought that it should be a multilateral solution; Secretary Connally had informed him, however, that Canada now wanted a bilateral one. We would do either—but “don’t draw me into deeper water.” We didn’t believe in ganging up. The U.S. should be as forthcoming as possible. [Page 424] They could not have anybody more understanding of Canada than he was.

Dr. Kissinger then stressed the U.S. interest in a cooperative rather than divisive solution to the monetary problem. He had made clear in his press briefing of November 303 that the monetary system by definition was a multilateral issue, and the solution in our view had to be one which all countries perceived as being in the common interest. In Canada’s case, Dr. Kissinger continued, it was not settled U.S. policy to treat Canada as a safe haven for U.S. investment. The President emphasized that the current measures were not our permanent policy. One could not say what steps were necessary in any one year. Our long-term purpose was to have a continuation of our special relationship with Canada. We would approach matters in this spirit.

The Prime Minister said that the President’s attitude was very generous. It was indeed better to try a multilateral approach. Canada’s preference was to continue a lean float; if forced into pegging they would try to do it even though they did not know whether they could hold it. In any case, they agreed to wait for the next meeting of the Group of Ten. On this “ganging up,” as the President had put it, in truth Canada had gotten together with others in an effort to get the U.S. surcharge removed. All of Canada’s industry was geared to letting the two countries trade freely; if this was interrupted, U.S. industry would disinvest in Canada to invest more in the U.S. The President would notice that this was the opposite fear to the fear of the U.S. treating Canada as a haven for U.S. investment.

The long-term trend is freer trade, the President suggested, while the short-term trend is the opposite. The fundamental problem was that there could not be a viable relationship if one side is exploitive and the other is exploited. Everyone agreed with that, even Connally. “Right, Henry?” The Prime Minister smiled and said, “What you are saying is revolutionary.” The President again turned to Dr. Kissinger: “Am I not right, Henry?” Dr. Kissinger affirmed that this was the settled policy of the Nixon Doctrine.

The President then asked the Prime Minister what he thought of multinational corporations. Prime Minister Trudeau said he wished there were more of them. It was not a question of liking them; they were here. Mr. Head then explained George Ball’s view that the multinational corporation would eventually lead to the economic integration of Canada and the U.S. The Prime Minister noted that some of these philosophical problems antedated August 15 and would remain long afterwards.

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Speaking of George Ball’s theory, the President did not know whether anyone could look that far into the future. Take Britain’s entry into the Common Market, which we supported; now they were more Gaullist than the French. The President turned to Dr. Kissinger. “But with British methods,” Dr. Kissinger replied. The Prime Minister asked what it was that bothered us. The President replied that the loss of the special relationship meant inevitable problems of adjustment.

Prime Minister Trudeau then raised the subject of the situation on the subcontinent, and wondered whether we could keep the other powers from getting involved. The President suggested that Russia would not get in. They were too far away and had no need to; India had the horses. India’s purpose was to remove Pakistan as a significant factor. It was absurd to think of it as Pakistani aggression. It was different from the Middle East, but in many ways sadly similar.

Dr. Kissinger provided a run-down of the Indo-Pakistani situation for the Prime Minister. The President then noted the irony that by cutting off arms to Pakistan we made the situation worse. This is why we had to maintain the balance in the Middle East. Actually, by supplying the Phantoms we were keeping the Israelis from attacking. This was all the old power politics. “I wish I could contradict you,” the Prime Minister said.

The President then gave an account of the Peking trip,4 emphasizing the point that it would not be at the expense of other countries. The opening to the People’s Republic of China has helped with the Soviets, he pointed out. The Prime Minister remarked that when the President met the Soviets he would find an almost pathological fear of the Chinese. “Fear or hatred?” the President asked. “Hatred,” the Prime Minister replied.

The President explained that we had no illusions with respect to the China visit. A significant change in our own interests was unlikely. But because we both needed each other in certain areas this may be a masterstroke. Prime Minister Trudeau pointed out that the U.S. had to reassure its friends in Southeast Asia. The President replied that we knew the arithmetic.

There were further pleasantries, and the meeting soon ended.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1025, Presidential/HAK MemCons. Top Secret. Trudeau visited Washington December 6. A tape recording of the discussion is ibid., White House Tapes, Conversation 630–18.
  2. See Document 108 and footnote 1 thereto.
  3. Summarized in “Cooperation Emphasized,” New York Times, December 1, 1971, p. 71.
  4. On November 29, the U.S. and Chinese Governments jointly announced that the President’s trip to China would commence on February 21, 1972.