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12. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Takeo Fukuda, Prime Minister of Japan
  • Vice President Walter Mondale
  • Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State
  • Iichiro Hatoyama, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor
  • Sunao Sonoda, Minister of State and Chief Cabinet Secretary
  • Thomas Shoesmith, Charge d’Affaires, American Embassy, Japan
  • Fumihiko Togo, Japanese Ambassador
  • Keisuke Arita, Deputy Vice Foreign Minister
  • Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia
  • Toshio Yamazaki, Director General
  • Hisashi Owada, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
  • Koji Watanabe, Division Chief, First Section, North American Affairs Bureau, Foreign Ministry
  • Henry Owen
  • Michael Armacost, Senior Staff Member, NSC (Notetaker)
  • Robert Hormats, Senior Staff Member, NSC
  • Ryuichiro Yamazaki (Interpreter)
  • James Wickel (Interpreter)
  • William Sherman, Japan Country Director, Department of State

The President began by outlining to the large meeting the points discussed in his preceding private talk with Prime Minister Fukuda.2

[Omitted here is discussion of non-proliferation and nuclear reprocessing.]

The President, turning to a new subject, referred to the impact of accelerated imports of certain commodities from Japan on the U.S. unemployment rate. He noted that the shoe and color TV industries are particularly hard hit at present. Noting the International Trade Com[Page 43]mission recommendations regarding color TV imports;3 the President indicated he would like to avoid both import restrictions and increased tariffs. But, he said, he regarded Japanese export levels of color TVs to the United States in 1976 excessive, and would like a government-to-government agreement limiting the number of such exports. Such an export restraint agreement would enable him to take actions that would not disrupt efforts to reach long term solutions to these problems which we hope to resolve in the GATT. The President suggested, if there were no objections, a level of about 2.5 million color TV imports from Japan this year, and affirmed that he would be happy to negotiate that level privately if the Japanese were agreeable.

Prime Minister Fukuda reiterated his belief that the high color TV export figures for 1976 were an unusual phenomenon about which he had expressed concern at the time. He said he had already asked the electronics industry to exhibit self-restraint. He said that the Japanese Government did not have the capacity to impose such restraints legally, in view of Japan’s antitrust laws. But Fukuda emphasized that export levels this year would not reach 2.7 million sets as they did last year. The Prime Minister indicated that he fully appreciated the President’s concerns, and he expressed willingness to hold government-to-government talks on the subject after the ITC report was in.

The President emphasized the fact that he did not have much time on this issue. Having received ITC’s recommendations on color TV’s and shoes, he would be compelled to reach decisions on shoes by April 9, and color TV’s a bit later.

Prime Minister Fukuda said that he hoped that the President’s reference to 2.5 million color TV sets as a ceiling for 1977 Japanese exports would not get out of the room. If the matter became public, it would become an obstacle to the negotiation of an agreement.

The President noted that he had gotten the figure from Fred Bergsten of the Department of Treasury, who in turn had obtained it from an official of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in Tokyo in late January. He added that he also would not like a figure mentioned outside the room because 2.5 million TV sets is a large figure and he would not like his people to know that he was such a poor bargainer.

[Omitted here is discussion of China, civil aviation, a potential visit by Carter to Japan, U.S.-Japanese relations, and a Japanese seat on the UN Security Council.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 34, Memcons: President: 3/77. Secret; Noforn. The meeting, which took place in the Cabinet Room, ended at 11:37 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) Fukuda made an official visit to the United States March 20–23. Memoranda of conversation of Carter’s March 21 meetings with Fukuda are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 34, Memcons: President: 3/77.
  2. Carter and Fukuda met in the Oval Office from 10:03 until 10:35 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) A memorandum of conversation is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 34, Memcons: President: 3/77.
  3. On March 14, the USITC found that imports of color televisions were causing injury to U.S. producers. It recommended a 2-year tariff of 25 percent (up from 5 percent), followed by 2 more years at 20 percent, concluding with a tariff of 10 percent. (Paul Lewis, “Tariff is Urged for TV Imports by Trade Body,” The New York Times, March 15, 1977, p. 1)