306. Letter From the Former Ambassador in Spain (Hill) to President Nixon 1

Dear Mr. President:

On leaving my post in Spain,2 I would like to call your attention to a major problem remaining in our relations with Spain and give you my thoughts as to how it might be solved.

Our relations with Spain are excellent, but in recent months, the Spanish Government has begun to take actions in the military field, which if continued, would greatly diminish the value of the bases to us. [10 lines not declassified]

I am convinced that there is a relationship between the recent military difficulties and the Spanish Government’s serious concern over our posture regarding their agreement with the European Community, their desire for beneficiary status under our generalized preferences scheme, and their fear that we may impose restrictions on shoe imports from Spain.3

The Spanish insist that if we establish a generalized preferences system and exclude Spain because of the reverse preferences Spain grants to the EC, this would cause political as well as economic problems for them. The Spanish would be satisfied if they could benefit from the system at least until 1975, by which time their integration into the EC will have reached such a point that they could dispense with preferences from the U.S. I urge you to take this course of action.

The Spanish understand the problems which shoe imports represent for us. However, unilateral U.S. action to restrict imports of Spain’s leading export product would cause serious difficulties for the Spanish Government. On the other hand, it is virtually impossible politically for the Spanish Government to impose controls on shoe exports unless it can show some concession from the United States in return.

The issues of generalized preferences and shoes might be disposed of by tying them together. We could seek agreement from the Spanish [Page 941] that they would establish voluntary controls on shoe exports, along specified lines, to go into effect when the Congress has passed generalized preferences legislation under which Spain could be a beneficiary, at least until 1975.

I propose that the problem of the Spain-EC agreement, which poses an even greater threat to our relations, be solved as follows. We could inform the Spanish that we are prepared to support Spain diplomatically in its forthcoming attempt to obtain a commitment from the EC on ultimate full integration. Assuming Spanish willingness, under our bilateral agreement, to offer adjustments or compensation for any case of actual damage to U.S. exports, we would not press our plan to invoke GATT provisions against Spain. In return, we would expect Spain to implement the military provisions of the Agreement of Friendship and Cooperation in a fully cooperative spirit. We should start this course of action as soon as possible, because it must be linked to the forthcoming renegotiation of the Spain-EC agreement, which is to take place in the near future.

I do not believe any of these problems can be solved in isolation. They should all be dealt with in one negotiation, which, because of its complexity, would have to be conducted through normal diplomatic channels to stand any chance of success.

Mr. President, Nat Samuels is well-liked and respected by the Spanish officials. He can do the job and it should be done soonest.

With warm regard.


Robert C. Hill 4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 706, Country Files—Europe, Spain, Vol. IV. Secret.
  2. Hill left post on January 12.
  3. A memorandum from Laird to Nixon, January 11, expressed Laird’s concern that the U.S. position on the Spanish-EC preferential trade agreement might result in restrictions on the freedom of U.S. military operations in Spain. A January 12 memorandum to William Eberle, Special Representative for Trade Negotiations, provided information on the status and background of the footwear issue in U.S. trade policy. Both memoranda are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume IV, Foreign Assistance, International Development, Trade Policies, 1969–1972, Documents 266 and 267.
  4. Hill signed “Bob” above his typed signature.