289. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • PL 480, Title I

This memorandum is intended to apprise you of the steps we are taking to comply with the new amendment of the Agricultural Trade [Page 903] Development and Assistance Act of 1954 which became effective on October 1, 1977.2 The amendment provides:

“Sec. 112. (a) No agreement may be entered into under this title to finance the sale of agricultural commodities to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such agreement will directly benefit the needy people in such country. An agreement will not directly benefit the needy people in the country for purposes of the preceding sentence unless either the commodities themselves or the proceeds from their sale will be used for specific projects or programs which the President determines would directly benefit the needy people of that country. The agreement shall be used to benefit the needy people and shall require a report to the President on such use within six months after the commodities are delivered to the recipient country.

“(b) To assist in determining whether the requirements of subsection (a) are being met, the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry of the Senate or the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives may require the President to submit in writing information demonstrating that an agreement will directly benefit the needy people in a country.

“(c) . . .

“(d) The President shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, and the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry of the Senate, in the annual presentation materials on planned programming of assistance under this Act, a full and complete report regarding the steps he has taken to carry out the provisions of this section.”

Twenty-nine countries are scheduled to receive PL 480, Title I assistance during FY 78. They are listed under Tab 1.3 State, AID and Agriculture are complying with the new statutory requirement set forth above by seeking to include a new provision in the FY 78, PL 480, Title I agreements with certain countries. The new provision, calling for assurances that the food or the proceeds therefrom are used for needy [Page 904] people, is attached under Tab 2.4 (With Herb Hansell’s help, we are preparing a simplified version of the requested assurances.)

In considering which of the 29 recipient countries ought to be asked to agree to the new provision, we assessed the possibility of only including countries engaged in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights (“gross and consistent violators”). However, of the 29 countries on the overall list, none has thus far been formally determined to be a gross and consistent violator. While some of the countries on the list are arguably in that category, it has been our view that a formal designation to that effect is not a particularly useful policy tool and has many obvious disadvantages. Yet any effort to confine our application of the new statutory provision to gross and consistent violations would almost certainly result in the designation of several of the 29 countries. Accordingly, we concluded it would be a mistake to ask only countries designated gross and consistent violators to agree to the new provision.

As another possibility, we considered seeking to include the new language in the agreements with all 29 countries. The claimed benefit of this approach was that it would avoid singling out any countries as human rights violators. However, AID and Agriculture were strongly opposed to this course of action because of the considerable additional burden, expense and possible delay that it would entail, not only in the negotiating process, but also in the efforts required to monitor compliance with the new provision. Moreover, inclusion of all 29 countries would not be a faithful construction of the terms of the amendment.

The third approach we considered—and the one we chose—was to seek to include the new language in agreements with those countries as to which there are serious human rights questions.5 Such an approach avoids the principal disadvantages of the two extreme courses discussed above. It does not, at this point, stigmatize any country as a gross and consistent violator, but nevertheless enables us to comply with the statute. Moreover, this approach will prove useful when we report to Congress on our compliance efforts, as required by the statute: we will be able to report that all countries about which there is a “serious question” complied with the “needy people” requirement of the statute, and yet we will not have to brand any country as a gross and consistent violator. On the other hand, this approach avoids the onerousness of including all 29 countries, thus permitting AID and Agriculture to operate without undue disruption of the PL 480 negotiating and monitoring process.

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Having chosen the middle course of including only countries with seriously questionable human rights records, we determined after wide consultation within State, AID and Agriculture that, of the agreements which are ready to be negotiated, those with Indonesia, Korea, Bangladesh and Guinea should include the new language. Negotiating instructions to our personnel in Indonesia, Korea and Bangladesh have been sent out, and those for the Guinean agreement will be dispatched on Monday.6

The instructions state that the negotiation of these agreements should be given top priority and that every effort should be exerted to conclude the agreements within ten business days. If it should appear that efforts to include the new provision will make it impossible to conclude the agreement within that period, we will communicate a possible fallback position to the posts, e.g., a side letter or memorandum of intent. (We are receiving quite understandable complaints from the posts and bureaus on this matter, but the problem stems from the statute itself and our need to implement it with fidelity to our human rights policy.)

Negotiating instructions were also sent out earlier this week to our personnel in six other countries—and on Monday will be sent to our post in a seventh—whose human rights records were not determined to be seriously questionable: namely, Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt and Sri Lanka.7

For technical reasons unrelated to human rights, the remaining 18 agreements are not ready to be negotiated at this time. We are considering within the Department which of the 18 countries are regarded as raising serious human rights questions. I am attaching, under Tab 3,8 a supportive editorial from yesterday’s Washington Post and two earlier Washington Post stories, apparently inspired by the Department of Agriculture.

Warren Christopher9
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of the Office of the Deputy Secretary, Warren D. Christopher, Lot 81D113, Box 18, Human Rights—P.L.–480 II. Confidential. Vance wrote “See p. 3” (see footnote 5 below) at the top of the page and initialed at the bottom of the page. Christopher chaired the Interagency Group on Human Rights and Foreign Assistance, known as the Christopher Committee.
  2. In November 9 memorandum, Katz, Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Patricia Derian, and Deputy AID Administrator Robert Nooter requested Christopher’s decision on how the amendment to Title I of P.L. 480 (P.L. 95–88) should be implemented. (Ibid.) In a November 22 memorandum to Brzezinski, Tuchman provided background on both the issue and how it was being pursued. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 49, PL 480: 11/77–1/80) Both memoranda are printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Documents 86 and 88.
  3. Tab 1, attached but not printed, is a list entitled “Countries Scheduled to Receive PL 480, Title I Assistance During FY 78.” The following countries are on the list: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Korea, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zaire, and Zambia.
  4. Tab 2, attached but not printed, is an undated paper entitled “New Provision for Inclusion in Certain FY 78, PL 480, Title I Agreements.”
  5. Vance wrote “I approve” in the margin adjacent to this sentence.
  6. November 28. The instructions were not found.
  7. Not found.
  8. Tab 3, attached but not printed, comprises three clippings from The Washington Post: a November 23, 1977, article by Dan Morgan entitled “17 Countries Await ‘Human Rights’ Clearance for Food Aid,” p. A8; a November 24, 1977, editorial entitled “Food for People,” p. A22; and a November 22, 1977, article by Dan Morgan entitled “U.S. Holds Back Food Aid in Rights Review,” p. A1.
  9. Christopher signed “Warren” above this typed signature.