71. Letter From President Carter to Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda1

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Thank you for your letter of October 19.2 I am glad that you wrote me so frankly about the need for close consultation, cooperation, and the avoidance of misunderstandings. I agree fully with you. No element of US foreign policy is more important than the connection between Japan and the United States. I intend to do everything I can to keep that connection in good working order. To this end, I hope that you will keep me informed of the domestic economic and political situation in Japan, and I will keep you advised of economic and political trends in the United States that bear on our relationship.

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As you know, the size of the Japanese external surplus fuels protectionist pressures in this country. I realize that it will take time to solve this problem. That is why I am so anxious to make a good start.

US officials found the recent Tokyo sub-Cabinet level discussions of bilateral trade questions fruitful.3 I look forward to early activation of the joint economic projections study group and the joint trade facilities sub-committee that were agreed on then. I welcome the additional measures you have adopted to stimulate the Japanese domestic economy, and the initial steps that you announced on September 20 to expand Japan’s imports.4 I am pleased that additional important actions are also being considered.

I noted and was gratified by your public statement about the need to “strive for an external equilibrium.” We need now to work out a procedure for seeking agreement on further steps to hasten movement in this direction. US officials had rewarding discussions with Mr. Yoshino about this during his recent visit to Washington.5 Our countries’ common purpose should be to develop a package of measures that would assure early, substantial, and visible progress to reduce the size of Japan’s current account surplus. My economic advisors will be discussing these matters among themselves; and discussions will be pursued with officials of your government in the period immediately ahead. I would hope that Bob Strauss could, in conjunction with Ambassador Mansfield, carry the discussion forward if he visits Japan in early December, so that some understanding about a package of measures—bearing on not only trade, but aid, foreign exchange, and growth policies—could be reached during his visit.

I understand the large obstacles to progress. Working together, I believe that Japan and the United States can overcome these obstacles, and make good progress in helping to build a viable world economy. In isolation, we are all too likely to repeat the failures of the early 1930s, which you described so eloquently at the Downing Street Summit. This is why I have set forth so fully my thoughts about next steps in the US-Japanese dialogue. I hope that you will be equally candid in giving me your reaction. A continuing direct exchange of views between us is the key to progress.


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 11, Japan: Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, 2–12/77. No classification marking.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 70.
  3. See Document 55.
  4. See Document 59.
  5. See Document 67.