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

SUBJECT

  • Major Export Promotion Drive

Our trade and payments position is atrocious, yet as far as I am aware the Administration has made no determined effort to come to terms with this on the export side. We are launching major efforts to try and open up the Japanese market to manufactured goods exports; yet when criticized for having a sheltered market, Japanese officials invariably claim that our businessmen do not try hard enough to compete in Japan. There is some truth to the contention, though it is essentially a self-serving defensive ploy. Nonetheless, it points up the fact that an important adjunct to our Japan initiatives should be a major effort to launch an export promotion drive with the blessings of the White House.

This has been attempted before. But the last attempt (four or five years ago) foundered because it was run essentially out of Commerce which enjoyed little confidence in the business community and little clout in the White House. After a few meetings, it fizzled.

I would suggest that the President bring a few key businessmen and labor leaders in to discuss launching a new export promotion drive to advance foreign economic policy aims and spur employment. The leaders of such a drive—if it is to have any prospect of success—must be recognizable figures, known to the President, enjoying the confidence of the business community and labor, and possessed of successful experience selling products abroad (ideally with some success in the Japanese market). This cannot be a venture limited to the big multinationals; it must be geared at intermediate sized firms as well to give a broad grass roots reach.

My knowledge of the giants of industry is limited, but Irving Shapiro, Chairman of DuPont, might be an ideal person to lead an effort of this kind. Tom Clausen, President of the Bank of America, should be drawn in on it. So perhaps, should John Connor, Allied Chemical (former Secretary of Commerce); and Bob Ingersoll, former Chairman of Borg Warner and Ambassador to Japan. Doubtless Bob Strauss, Mike [Page 240] Blumenthal, Juanita Kreps, and Roy Marshall would all have other candidates.

The important thing is to get moving soon, to think big, to place the leadership of the enterprise on people outside the bureaucracy, and to be willing to invest some White House attention, activity, and prestige in the venture.

RECOMMENDATION:

That you broach this idea at the next foreign policy breakfast with the President and Cy Vance.2

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 65, Trade: 11/77–4/79. Confidential. Sent for action.
  2. In an attached undated note to Armacost, Owen wrote: “This is a good idea, but I think we should check it with State & Commerce before doing it. I have calls in to Cooper + Weil, + will be back to you. I don’t think we should approach President until then.” (Ibid.)