63. Address by Secretary of State Vance1

Foreign Policy Decisions for 1978

Our country, within sight and memory of some Americans still living, has been transformed from a largely agrarian society to the world’s greatest industrial power—one in which economic, political, and social mobility are the accepted order of the day. The fantastic stories of Horatio Alger, as well as those of H.G. Wells, have come true. Of course, there is still poverty in America. There is still lack of sufficient opportunity for many. There is still discrimination.

But, day by day, and despite a few deplorable detours, we have held remarkably to the journey begun by our Founding Fathers—toward a new nation in a new world in which each citizen might stand free and equal beside his neighbor, able to make the most of his or her human potential.

When I am asked about the American people—as I often am by leaders of other countries—I say that as a people we have today a renewed faith in our old dreams, and this is something President Carter and I believe in very deeply. Because of who and what we are, both the basic interests and the ideals of our people must be present in our foreign policy, or it will not be long sustained.

• We must maintain a defense establishment modern and strong enough to protect ourselves and our allies.

[Page 297]

• We must protect American investment overseas and insure continuing access to vital raw materials.

• We must be strongly competitive economically so that American families can continue to enjoy their standard of living.

• We must maintain our close relations with our allies, while we seek at the same time improved contacts with our main competitor, the Soviet Union, and with the nonaligned nations.

All of this, and more, can be pursued—as we pursue our national interest—while still expressing the deeper ideals and aspirations that have led us to our remarkable economic and social progress here at home.

Our strength lies not only in our ideals but in the practical way we identify problems and work systematically toward their solution. We do the best when we are true to ourselves.

That is why America was at her best in the Marshall plan, why we have felt at home with Food for Peace and the Peace Corps. That is why I find such broad public support for President Carter’s emphasis upon human rights—including not only rights to the integrity of the person and political rights but the rights to food, clothing, shelter, housing, health, and education.

That is why, with all its difficulties, we have embarked on a course of diplomacy in the Middle East which may help bring peace to the people of that region.

That is why we are trying to help bring solutions—not our solutions but solutions through free elections—in Rhodesia and in Nambia so that people there will have their chance for human emancipation and development.

That is why we seek arms control arrangements through negotiations and have adopted a conscious policy of restraint on conventional arms transfers.

That is why we took tangible first steps in 1977 toward other goals, as well: to stop further nuclear proliferation; to reach agreements on the control of strategic weapons, agreements that will enhance the security of our nation and all the world; to reach agreement with our Western industrial partners on policies leading to economic revival and growth; to reaffirm our commitment to normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China; to reduce military competition in the Indian Ocean; to emphasize our support for racial equality and full political participation of all the people of South Africa.

The Carter Administration in 1977 made a conscious and deliberate effort to construct a foreign policy based upon American interests and upon American values and ideals.

[Page 298]

In 1978, there are actions, decisions, and choices which we must make here in America—some of them difficult—which will help determine how such a policy can be nourished and further evolve.

Panama Canal Treaties

One involves the decision of the U.S. Senate on the Panama Canal treaties—treaties which are the culmination of 14 years’ work by four American Presidents of both major political parties and their Secretaries of State. This is a decision which is being watched not only by all the nations of Latin America—all of which favor the treaties—but by other nations around the world.

Through these treaties, we can secure—definitively and permanently—our right to use the canal and to protect it. It is a place for us to put the lie, once and for all, to the wornout charge that we Americans are interested only in making the Southern Hemisphere safe for our own economic interests.

Imagine, if you will, that a foreign country controlled and administered a 10-mile-wide strip of land running the length of the Mississippi River. How long do you think the people of this country would willingly accept such a situation? This is an issue requiring understanding and foresight.

If we ratify the treaties, we can make clear to the world that disputes can and should be settled peaceably—through the rule of law and negotiation. And, most importantly, we can insure and safeguard the long-term usefulness and viability of the canal itself to all who use it, including ourselves.

Economic Relations

Another decision we must make is one regarding our economic relations with the rest of the world.

In 1978 we shall be moving toward a conclusion of the Tokyo Round of trade negotiations with other importing and exporting countries.

In 1962, when President Kennedy argued for the passage of the historic Trade Expansion Act, which led to 10 years of worldwide economic expansion, he rightly pointed out that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”2

Today the world is badly in need of economic recovery. Other major nations are suffering rates of inflation and unemployment which rival or are even higher than ours. The Tokyo Round, of and by itself, will not instantly restore worldwide economic prosperity. It will, how[Page 299]ever, encourage new investment and profitable exchange. If it fails and falls victim to a new wave of international protectionism, we can be sure that many of the “boats” will founder and some may sink.

I know that this is not an abstract, theoretical matter for the American worker or businessman or farmer who depends for his family’s living on production of steel, CB radios, color television sets, microwave ovens, textiles, footwear, automobiles, computers, sugar, and many other items. The changing world economy has made other nations competitive in production of these products, and we are feeling the result of it.

The Carter Administration knows this and is doing its best to help the American industries and people affected. The new steel program, announced in December,3 is a part of that. So are our present discussions with Japan on reducing its import barriers and increasing its rate of growth.4

But we and others must help ourselves in ways that do not throw the world back into the kind of disastrous protectionist spiral that we all experienced in the Great Depression.

Under economic pressure, one country, and then another, in the 1930’s closed its borders to foreign goods. High tariffs increased the price of everything to everyone, everywhere. Then we closed our banks and our businesses and our farms as we fell into worldwide depression. The great ports of our country were, as you well know, empty and forlorn places.

A new wave of protectionism would imperil the American profits and 10 million jobs which depend on those exports. The hardest hit of all would be the American farmer, who is having a hard time staying in the black right now. California is an agricultural state.

I have just learned that there is more acreage under cultivation in the United States to produce food which we sell to Japan than there is total acreage under cultivation in Japan. If Japan, for instance, were to close its borders to our food and fiber as part of a trade war, farms and [Page 300] rural communities in this State and elsewhere in America would be severely harmed.

So we must make the necessary decision to keep our commitment to both domestic and world economies which are open to competition and which reward productivity. That will involve knocking down barriers to our products elsewhere in the world. But it will also involve our acceptance of the fact that to buy from us, other countries must be able to sell to us.

Third World

We also have decisions to make—beyond those surrounding the Panama Canal treaties and the Tokyo Round—about a whole range of relations with the so-called Third World. These countries, most of them gaining their independence after World War II, are increasingly involved in our daily lives.

You know how the amount and cost of oil from these countries affect this country.

We also get more than 50% of the tin, aluminum, and manganese we need from less developed countries and substantial amounts of our lead, tungsten, and copper.

In addition, we depend on the emerging countries for an important share of our exports. Recent figures show, for instance, we exported $29 billion in goods to the non-oil-producing developing countries. This was three times the 1970 figure, three times our exports to Japan, and $3 billion more than our exports to all of industrialized Europe. These exports, of course, mean American jobs.

At the same time, it is in the developing world that many of the so-called global problems are most evident and threatening.

Inefficient and wasteful use of the Earth’s resources, pollution of the oceans and atmosphere, nuclear proliferation, unchecked arms competitions—all of these are problems which involve not only these countries but also the safety of the human race.

Most countries of the Third World have too little food; many lack the means to produce enough of their own. Almost all have exploding populations.

Even the most optimistic projections for the future point to population increases in the Third World of some 75% by the year 2000. Perhaps even more troubling, this growth seems certain to be concentrated in already hard-pressed urban centers. Imagine, if you will, as the projections indicate, a Mexico City with 32 million people; Sao Paulo with 26 million; and Calcutta, Bombay, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, Peking, and Shanghai each with some 19 million in 22 years.

In the years immediately ahead, many of the key nations of the Third World will be even more a part of our daily dialogue than they are today. We must decide how we shall relate to them.

[Page 301]

These countries believe that they should no longer be the “hewers of wood and drawers of water” for the rich Western nations, and we understand this. In the past year, we have reduced their suspicion of the United States and, thereby, lessened the likelihood that we could be faced with attempts at new cartels, built around raw materials and commodities other than oil, and unending political and economic hostility.

The countries of the Third World now feel that we regard them as important and sovereign nations and that we identify with their human aspirations. The emerging nations of the world can be constructive partners of the United States.

Make no mistake about it. These countries are not early-day miniatures of the United States. Many will choose paths of political and economic development which we will not approve. But a majority, at least, will be looking to us for understanding and assistance as they seek to build modern societies.

Will we be willing to share our technology with these countries? Will we be ready to help stabilize the basic commodity prices on which many of their economies are based? Will we treat their products fairly in the international marketplace? Will we be willing to support their national economic development plans when they do not always suit our own tastes? All these questions are complex and some pose difficult problems. But this Administration fully realizes that we shall harm our own interests and we shall not be true to our own values if we fail to address these issues sympathetically.

Southern Africa

An immediate and tangible test of our intentions toward the Third World lies in southern Africa. I speak of the three principal problems of Rhodesia, Namibia, and the situation within South Africa itself. We cannot impose solutions in southern Africa. We cannot dictate terms to any of the parties; our leverage is limited.

But we are among the few governments in the world that can talk to both white and black Africans frankly and yet with a measure of trust. We would lose our ability to be helpful if we lost that trust. It is, therefore, essential that our policies of encouraging justice for people of all races in southern Africa be clear to all.

After careful consideration, this Administration is actively pursuing solutions to all three southern African problems. These problems must be addressed together, for they are intertwined.

Some have argued that apartheid in South Africa should be ignored for the time being in order to concentrate on achieving progress on Rhodesia and Namibia. Such a policy would be wrong and would not work. It would be blind to the reality that the beginning of progress [Page 302] must be made soon within South Africa if there is to be a possibility of peaceful solutions in the longer run. It could mislead the South Africans about our real concerns. It would prejudice our relations with our African friends. It would do a disservice to our own beliefs. And it would discourage those of all races who are working for peaceful progress within South Africa.

We believe that we can effectively influence South Africa on Rhodesia and Namibia while expressing our concerns about apartheid.

We believe that whites as well as blacks must have a future in Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. We also believe that their security lies in progress. Intransigence will only lead to greater insecurity.

We will welcome and recognize positive action by South Africa on each of these three issues. But the need is real for progress on all of them, and we shall need the continued support of the American people for a policy which can encourage and press for that progress.

Arms Limitation

Another decision facing us, as a people, is one which is now reflected in our discussions on strategic arms limitation with the Soviet Union. Security is the issue here. We pursue our security in two ways:

• By maintaining a military establishment which will see to the safety of ourselves and our allies and

• By arms control.

What we cannot achieve by mutual, equal limitations, we insure by our own strength.

Thus, we have to think of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) as a process. It is a process of discovering whether we can work out some of our security problems with the Soviet Union. It is a process also in the sense that we try to solve what strategic problems we can at each stage; then, we move on to the next stage and the next level of problems.

We do not seek reductions in arms for their own sake but only when reductions promote security. But there can be an important result from arms reductions alongside an increase in our security: the potential for us and for others, including those in the developing world, to cut spending on armaments and to reorder priorities.

If we have the courage and patience to see it through, I believe we can both lower the threshold of international danger and release new resources for the works of peace through SALT and other such negotiations. But we must summon the will to do it. For it is in our relations with the Soviet Union that war and peace issues and decisions are most involved.

Our policies toward the Soviet Union are based upon a realistic appreciation that this is a serious competitive relationship and that Soviet [Page 303] objectives in the world are very different from ours. It is also important to recognize, however, that there are specific matters on which our interests are not in conflict—not least, in the avoidance of nuclear war.

In the cause of peace and of our own interest, we have engaged the Soviet Union on a wide range of concrete matters intended in the first instance to stabilize the military competition and to regulate the political competition. These are our first objectives, because they go to the heart of the issue of war and peace.

Beyond these objectives, we seek to enlarge areas of common understanding and common action on a range of international issues, including human rights; cooperation on matters affecting the lives of people everywhere, such as disease, food supply, pollution of the environment, and the application of science and technology.

Progress in these fields is uneven and may take a long time, but we draw patience and a long-term perspective from our realization of how far we have come from the intense and dangerous cold war spirit that prevailed only a few decades ago.

The alternative to this active dialogue with the Soviets implies a return to the tensions and mutual isolation of the cold war. Many of you and the leadership of this Administration remember what that period was like. In good conscience, we cannot recommend that we lead the country back to the troubles and fear of that era.

Middle East

Tomorrow I leave for Jerusalem to assist at an event that we all would have regarded as impossible just a few short months ago.5 The Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Israel will sit down together, around a conference table, to start the detailed negotiation of peace between Israel and the Arab states. After three decades of estrangement and hostility, the process of reconciliation has begun.

I am sure that you, as all Americans and peoples the world over, have been as moved as I was by the dramatic events of the weeks just past. President Sadat’s sudden and spectacular visit to Jerusalem captured the imagination of all of us; it was an act of vision and statesmanship.6 The warmth of his reception by Prime Minister Begin and the people of Israel, surmounting the bitter memories of four wars which [Page 304] had brought tragedy to every family, gave clear testimony to the desire for peace.

President Sadat’s initiative and Prime Minister Begin’s response have set in motion a negotiating process which began with the Cairo preparatory conference in December and will continue at ministerial level in a Military Committee in Cairo and a Political Committee in Jerusalem. Both Egypt and Israel have emphasized that they view the negotiations now underway as laying the groundwork for negotiations among all parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, looking toward a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

After his discussion with President Sadat last week, President Carter made clear the task facing the Middle Eastern Political Committee meeting in Jerusalem.7

• First, true peace must be based on normal relations among the parties to the peace. Peace means more than just an end to belligerency.

• Second, there must be withdrawal by Israel from territories occupied in 1967 and agreement on secure and recognized borders for all parties in the context of normal and peaceful relations in accordance with U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338.

• Third, there must be a resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects; it must recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and enable the Palestinians to participate in the determination of their own future.

I believe that these principles, as stated by the President, should be acceptable to the governments and peoples on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

To move from principles to concrete achievement will require flexibility and courage, qualities of statesmanship of which the leaders of Egypt and Israel have already given full display.

For our part, we stand ready to help Arabs and Israelis achieve their peace. It is important to our national interests that we do so; our values and character as a people demand no less than our greatest effort to help resolve this tragic conflict.

We will participate actively in the work of the Jerusalem meeting, as the parties have asked us to do. When difficulties in the negotiations arise, we may be able to make some helpful suggestions to bridge the gaps between the parties; however, we will not impose a blueprint for [Page 305] resolution of issues which ultimately only the peoples of the area can resolve.

There can be no turning back from Jerusalem. Arab and Israeli peoples would bitterly resent a diplomatic failure now that these long-hostile nations have found the will and the capacity to approach each other in mutual respect.

From what I have said today, I believe that you can tell that I am basically optimistic about our foreign policy and the chances for future advances in the cause of peace.

Despite our problems, this is a strong and free country and one which is filled with hope and vitality.

Some 33 years into the nuclear age, the world has not blown itself up. Indeed, we have in those years, through diplomacy and international leadership, lessened the chances of that ever happening.

We have, since World War II, seen more than 100 new countries enter nationhood. They are becoming productive, self-sustaining members of the international community.

The task ahead, as I see it, will be to persevere on the course we have charted. This is a time when political and economic change is taking place so rapidly—Peter Drucker has aptly called this “an age of discontinuity”—that it might tempt some to retreat to our old, inward fortress America habitudes.8

However, we are now being true to ourselves, and faithful to what one 200-year-old document called “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.”9 In the past year, President Carter has led us to make the hard decisions that have shown again that our country has not lost its faith in man’s perfectability.

We have great strength. Properly channeled, our strength can be a catalytic and vital force in bringing peace, opportunity, and material well-being to millions of people—in America as well as abroad.

  1. Source: Department of State Bulletin, February 1978, pp. 23–26. Vance delivered his address before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
  2. Kennedy signed the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (H.R. 11970; P.L. 87–794; 76 Stat. 872) into law on October 11, 1962.
  3. On December 6, 1977, the Carter administration announced its plan to revitalize the U.S. steel industry. In addition to loan guarantees, tax breaks, and economic assistance to communities impacted by steel layoffs, the plan also featured a “trigger” or reference price system designed to eliminate the importation of lower-priced steel into the United States. Solomon, during a December 6 news conference, explained that the reference prices, pegged to the costs of production of the most efficient steel producers, would “trigger” a government investigation if countries exported steel to the United States below the set reference price. (James L. Rowe, Jr., “Administration Warns Against Raising Prices,” The Washington Post, December 7, 1977, pp. D–8, 11) See also Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. III, Foreign Economic Policy, Document 80.
  4. For information on these discussions, which were held in Tokyo January 9–13, see ibid., Documents 97 and 98.
  5. Reference is to the opening session of the Egyptian-Israeli Political Committee January 16–20 in Jerusalem. For documentation on the session and on Vance’s meetings with Middle East leaders, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, Documents 194197, 199, 201, and 203206.
  6. Sadat flew to Tel Aviv and then traveled to Jerusalem on November 19, 1977, the first visit to Israel by an Arab head of state since Israel’s founding in 1948; see ibid., Document 152.
  7. Carter met with Sadat and Schmidt in Aswan, Egypt on January 4. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, Document 185. For the President’s statement to the press after the meeting, see Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 19–20.
  8. Drucker, a Claremont Graduate University professor and consultant who wrote on management theory and practice, published The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our Changing Society in 1969.
  9. Reference is to the Declaration of Independence. The actual line reads: “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”