19. Memorandum From Robert Hormats and Michael Armacost of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • President’s Letter to Prime Minister Fukuda on Televisions

We were surprised,2 indeed concerned, about the final letter to Fukuda which the President sent via Ambassador Strauss.3 During the meeting with Fukuda the President put forward the 2.5 million figure as an acceptable figure for 1977 exports.4 He did not press for the Prime Minister’s agreement on the spot. He acknowledged that the figure would be considered high by U.S. labor and business circles. Fukuda was prepared to strike a deal on the spot; his advisors suggested that he hold off until he had a chance to consult with his Cabinet and business circles. But the Japanese by no means rejected the figure.

However, this letter implies that having been unable to reach an agreement in Washington, we are going to make another effort to reach a compromise.5 In fact, of course, Strauss intends to propose a considerably lower figure—and the line about failing to reach agreement is simply a shallow pretext for seeking a better deal.

To make matters worse, Strauss apparently indicated to Ambassador Togo that the President did not put forward a U.S. position during his talk with Fukuda, but that the number he discussed was really one which was given to him by a U.S. official who had earlier [Page 57] talked with the Japanese, and did not really represent a U.S. position. This shades the truth a bit; it is at best disingenuous.

Obviously, it would be dandy if Strauss could persuade the Japanese to accept greater restraint on TV exports than the President suggested in his meeting with Fukuda. But we fear the language in this letter may seek that worthy objective at the risk of jeopardizing the President’s credibility with Fukuda. The Japanese attach great importance to gentlemen’s agreements. They are also pragmatic. If Strauss were to straightforwardly indicate to Fukuda that on reflection the President has come to the conclusion that the 2.5 million figure cannot be sold to the American public as plausible rationale for foregoing the ITC recommendations, we suspect the Prime Minister could accept that and would probably be prepared to consider a somewhat lower figure. But this letter is too sly and lawyer-like to be appropriate to this situation.

We presume it is too late to do anything about this, but we did wish to at least register our misgivings.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 40, Japan: 1–4/77. Confidential. Sent for information.
  2. Brzezinski underlined the phrase “We were surprised” and wrote above it, “I was, too!”
  3. Attached but not printed is an unsigned April 4 letter from Carter to Fukuda, which is different from the letter attached as Tab A to Document 18. The final version of the letter is also in telegram 76428 to Tokyo, April 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850106–2091, N770002–0455)
  4. See Document 12.
  5. The relevant section of the letter reads: “Another important matter which I know is of considerable concern to both of us is trade in color television sets. Since we discussed this subject but were unable to reach an agreement, I have had the opportunity to examine the Trade Commission’s Report and the latest trade figures. I therefore think that it is important for us to take a fresh look at this problem without regard to previous positions. I believe that we can arrive at a figure which meets our mutual interests. It would be desirable if Ambassador Strauss and you or your representatives can reach an understanding on an appropriate level of imports, so that this issue might be resolved before the Summit.”
  6. According to telegram 5108 from Tokyo, April 8, which summarized Strauss’ April 6–8 visit to Tokyo, “two days of intensive discussions on television problem resulted in outlines of several possible approaches to an agreed resolution.” The U.S. and Japanese representatives agreed to come to a “mutually satisfactory negotiated settlement on television this month so that this question would be out of the way by the Summit.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770123–0006) For the conclusion of the U.S.-Japan negotiations on color television receivers, see Document 31.