315. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Cooper) to Secretary of State Vance1

A Possible Orientation to North/South Issues in 1979

This memorandum suggests a possible orientation for the Carter Administration to North/South issues in 1979. It concentrates on two issues, and does not purport to be comprehensive.

Since 1974 we have been on the defensive in the North/South debate. To a great extent this is inherent in the character of the debate, since the G–77 are the demandeurs, and we are the defenders, if not of the status quo at least of the essentials of the existing international economic system. By any historical standard this system has served most countries—including most developing countries—exceedingly well.

Nonetheless, it would be desirable for us to regain the initiative. To do so, we should play from our strengths. Apart from our economic size and our military might, traditionally the two strongest elements of the American position in the world, as seen by others as well as by ourselves, have been our leadership in moral and humane values (in particular, our commitment to freedom of the individual and our defense of his rights against the state and other large impersonal entities) and our technological prowess. The President’s early emphasis on the importance of human rights as an element of American foreign policy, [Page 1000] and the shift of emphasis in our aid program to basic human needs, have both helped us to regain the initiative in the area of moral and humane values. We should continue to press those issues, firmly but not obsessively, in our relations with developing countries. Not all developing countries will like this position, but in my view it provides the only possible basis for building and sustaining broad-based support for foreign assistance with the American public.

The second half of President Carter’s administration presents several opportunities to emphasize our second strength, technological prowess. January 1979 is the 30th anniversary of Harry Truman’s inaugural address, in which he put forward his famous “Point Four” proposals. Truman, it is said, is the President Jimmy Carter admires most; it would be fitting if he picked up a dramatic Truman initiative in his own administration. The State of the Union message offers an ideal occasion for recalling Truman’s Point Four initiative, reviewing briefly the substantial progress in the intervening 30 years, and outlining his own program in general terms.

(Truman’s Point Four program offered to make “the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas”.2 He offered to make available our store of technological knowledge to “produce more food, more clothing, more materials for housing and more mechanical power to lighten their burdens” of the free peoples of the world. It represented the beginnings of our development-oriented foreign aid program.)

In the international arena, UNCTAD V will take place in Manila in May and the UN Conference on Science and Technology will take place in August. Each presents an occasion for unveiling some details of the program. Indeed, others will be looking to the U.S. to take some initiative at these conferences.

What would be the content of such a program?

First, we could pull together in an integrated fashion a number of disparate initiatives President Carter has already approved:

1. The Foundation for International Technological Cooperation (FITC).

2. The technological aspects of the President’s world health initiative, especially greater emphasis on tropical diseases in our medical research.3

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3. The technological aspects of the President’s forthcoming world food initiative (although he should not anticipate too baldly the results of the Presidential Commission his food message will establish.)4

4. Our technological cooperation with others in energy (we will try to assure you that this can have some real contents).

5. Other miscellaneous technological projects which are spread around the government, such as those of NASA, the Geological Survey, the Bureau of Weights and Measures, etc.

Second, we must spell out more precisely the orientation of the FITC and our own approach to technological cooperation with developing countries. Here I would emphasize three aspects:

1. FITC should serve as a broker between the needs for applied technology in developing countries and the availability of American skills and knowledge both in the USG and in the private sector.

2. Assistance, largely in the form of specialists on temporary duty, in establishing institutions of applied research and other technologically oriented organizations in developing countries.

3. Assistance in training persons from developing countries in U.S. colleges, universities, and technological training institutions.

Obviously some additional money will be required to carry out these functions, but the sums need not be large. Even the costs of training large numbers of foreign students in the U.S.—which I strongly support, since I believe U.S. training and direct exposure to the United States is one of the best long-term investments we can make in developing countries—would involve only relatively minor costs, about $100 million to train 10,000 foreign students annually.

Collaboration in research and development projects involving hardware, for example various energy projects, would not be ruled out. This could involve more substantial money, but each large project could be put to Congress on its merits, just as we do for domestic research and development projects.

A reasonably well integrated program in technical assistance offers a constructive approach to middle-income developing countries. These are countries which do not need our financial assistance and for which we find it increasingly difficult to justify financial assistance. We can, nonetheless, emphasize our willingness to engage in technological collaboration, to help train people, and to help establish applied research facilities in those countries, provided they are willing to bear much of the cost. At the same time, this approach complements well our emphasis on basic human needs—food, health, education—in our foreign assistance programs.

If you agree that this is a useful approach, I will work with Lucy Benson, Tony Lake and others over the next several weeks to sketch out [Page 1002] the content and timing of a suggested program in technology in 1979 starting with the President’s State of the Union message.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, Richard N. Cooper, 1977–1980, Lot 81D134, Box 3, E Memorandum’s from RNC to Secretary, Deputy Secretary, 78. Confidential. A stamped notation at the bottom of the first page reads: “CV.” Vance underlined portions of the memorandum.
  2. This program was the fourth component of the “program for peace and freedom” outlined by Truman in his January 20, 1949, inaugural address; see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1949, pp. 112–116. (Quotation is on p. 114.)
  3. Documentation on the Carter administration’s world health initiative is in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Document 313.
  4. See footnote 6, Document 171.
  5. Vance highlighted this paragraph and wrote “Yes—please do” in the adjacent margin.