221. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs (Katz) to Secretary of State Vance 1

The World Food Council and the North-South Dialogue

Results of the Third Ministerial Session

The successful conclusion of the Third Session of the World Food Council (WFC), held in Manila June 20–24, 1977, assures the near-term viability of this organization and gives it the potential to become one of the primary fora for continuation of the North-South dialogue in food and agriculture.2 The meeting was successful not only in reaching a [Page 703]consensus for the first time in the body’s history, but also in conducting deliberations in an atmosphere remarkably free of bloc politics or confrontation. The major reasons for the outcome include the strong and positive leadership role assumed by the United States, enhanced greatly by the attendance of Secretary Bergland;3 the dynamic involvement of Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arturo Tanco, Jr., who was elected as WFC President; the location of the meeting in a moderate developing nation interested in an amicable outcome and widespread disappointment with the Preparatory Meeting4 and previous WFC sessions where confrontation tactics were tried but failed.

Aside from the general success of the Session, the United States in large part achieved its own objectives, though they were admittedly modest and largely symbolic and informational in nature. For the first time since the 1974 World Food Conference,5 high-level attention, especially in developing nations, was drawn to the fact that complacency about world food problems is not tolerable. Such attention is all the more significant in view of three years of good harvests. Widespread recognition was accorded to US leadership in addressing food problems, both because of the presence of Secretary Bergland and because of recent US initiatives in food security, food aid, development assistance and other areas. Also, developing nations accepted to a significant degree the essentiality of a balance of responsibility in solving [Page 704]food problems. Such balance is reflected in the Session’s final report6 which recognizes that developing countries must substantially increase internal investment in agriculture, provide a share of the agricultural inputs needed to sustain output increases, and incorporate nutritional well-being as a major objective in development planning. Such explicit acknowledgements have not been obtained previously.

At the same time, developing countries succeeded in using the World Food Council as a mechanism for advancing their position on food policy issues beyond results achieved at the recently concluded Conference on International Economic Cooperation,7 despite widespread resistance among developed countries in earlier meetings to treating the Council as a “negotiating forum.” Thus, the Council accepted the designation of “food priority country” and advised international organizations to assist such countries to determine internal and external investment and other requirements for achieving at least a 4 per cent annual increase in food production. International organizations were also asked to determine a minimum package of agricultural inputs for such countries, a portion to be provided on concessional terms. Rice was explicitly mentioned as a possible component of a new international grains arrangement, as well as the subject of exploratory consultations proposed by WFC President Tanco to determine interest in a commodity agreement. In food aid, participants recommended that donor countries do their utmost to achieve a previously-agreed target of 10 million tons of cereal food aid in 1977/78 and that a new food aid convention be negotiated as part of a new grains arrangement with a view to contributing in an appropriate manner to a sustained achievement of this target.

Implications for the Future

The United States was in a particularly favorable position as a result of six months of exhaustive review of our policies, which high-lighted those areas where changes were possible. The Third Session succeeded partly because there were compromises on positions taken by all sides. The United States should explicitly recognize in pre[Page 705]paring for future sessions that the Council can be a useful negotiating forum. Such a stance would contrast with past positions that negotiations could not take place in this forum, and that the United States could only accede to policy statements which conformed with actions already taken unilaterally. There is ample opportunity for reciprocal commitment in the important field of food and agriculture and the United States ought to be prepared to seize such an opportunity.

It is remotely possible that the Third Session’s results contain wider implications for the atmosphere in which other North-South discussions are conducted. The session helped demonstrate to those developing countries which participated a feasible alternative to confrontation tactics. Although the absence of confrontation probably resulted from several unique circumstances including meeting outside Rome and the relatively high level of representation, the planning and other events preceding the WFC merit further analysis to determine if a spread of this non-confrontational experience to other fora is possible. At any rate, if a more conciliatory approach is tried again by developing countries as a result of the Third Session, it is likely to appear either within the WFC itself or in the FAO Conference,8 where many of the issues and the participants are the same.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770144–0998. No classification marking. Drafted by McEldowney on July 13; cleared by Hathaway, Bosworth, Ferch, and Byrnes and in draft by Donald McClelland (AID/PPC). McEldowney initialed for McClelland; Bosworth did not initial the memorandum. According to the official report of the United States delegation to the World Food Council third session, the delegation consisted of Bergland, Hathaway, Ferch, Byrnes, McEldowney, Anthony Cruit (USDA/FAS), Jo Ann Hallquist (USDA/FAS), and McClelland. (Official Report, January 1, 1978; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P780086–0444)
  2. In a September 24, 1973, speech to the United Nations General Assembly entitled “A Just Consensus, A Stable Order, A Durable Peace,” Kissinger called upon the United Nations to convene a world food conference. Kissinger’s speech is printed as Document 17 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXVIII, Part 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1973–1976. The first United Nations World Food Conference took place in Rome in 1974. One of the conference outcomes was the establishment of the World Food Council.
  3. Bergland addressed the World Food Council on June 20, reaffirming the global commitment to eradicating hunger and malnutrition. Telegram 9450 from Manila, June 20, transmitted the text of Bergland’s address. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770219–0672)
  4. The preparatory meeting took place in Rome May 9–14. Telegram 7636 from Rome, May 10, reported on the first day of the prepcom, when debate focused on designation of food priority countries and setting of targets for production increases and country contributions. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770167–0545) In telegram 117059 to multiple diplomatic and consular posts, May 20, the Department transmitted the text of a letter from Bergland to the WFC delegates (see footnote 2, Document 214). In the letter, Bergland commented that the prepcom had failed to generate an agenda “deserving of ministerial action in Manila” and added: “agreement in many important areas was frustrated because of delegates’ preoccupation with phraseology and peripheral issues. Unless we can return to such areas of agreement, I question whether the World Food Council will be able to fulfill its function to provide overall, integrated and continuing attention for the successful coordination and follow-up of major world food policies.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770181–0616)
  5. For documentation on the 1974 United Nations World Food Conference, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–14, Part 1, Documents on the United Nations, 1973–1976, Documents 133135, 137, 139, 143, 145, 147148, 150154; Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXVIII, Part 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1973–1976, Document 47; and Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976, Documents 251, 252, 256, 259, 262264, 267278, 280, 288, and 310.
  6. The final report, entitled “Manila Communiqué of the World Food Council: A Programme of Action to Eradicate Hunger and Malnutrition,” consists of 22 recommendations related to increasing food production, agricultural inputs, food security, food aid, nutrition, and trade. Telegram 9792 from Manila, June 25, transmitted the text of the Manila Communiqué to the Department, the Mission in Geneva, USUN, London and Rome. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770228–0118) The Department repeated the text in telegram 173872 to multiple diplomatic and consular posts, July 25. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770265–1048) The UN General Assembly adopted the Program of Action contained in the Manila Communiqué on December 8 in Resolution 32/52. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1977, pp. 536–537.
  7. See footnote 4, Document 214.
  8. The 19th session of the FAO Conference was held in Rome on November 14.