134. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to the Special Representative for Trade Negotiations (Strauss)1


  • Textile Relations with the Chinese

This is in response to your memo of August 22, concerning textile relations with the People’s Republic of China.2

I agree that we should initiate discussions with the Chinese about textiles at an early date. I understand that State officials intend to call in the Chinese Commercial Counselor shortly, outline the nature of the problem as we see it, and suggest possible remedies. If the Chinese agree, formal consultations would follow thereafter.

[Page 530]

I recognize that the rapid growth of Chinese textile shipments to the US deeply concerns our domestic industry.3 For that reason, and especially because the industry’s support will be critical in the final stages of the MTN, we should move expeditiously to resolve this problem.

However, we want to proceed in a way that will ensure progress and limit the impact of our action on US-Chinese relations, which have expanded markedly in recent months. I suggest, therefore, that we make no public announcements about our approach to the Chinese on this issue until we have actually begun formal consultations. Premature publicity raises the risk of misunderstanding with Peking. Once the talks are underway—and we propose to move promptly—we should still be able to derive maximum political benefit by demonstrating that we are responsive to the industry’s complaints.

I would be pleased to discuss these matters with you and Cy at a mutually convenient time.

Zbigniew Brzezinski
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 9–11/78. Confidential. Sent to Brzezinski under a covering memorandum from Platt and Deal, August 30, upon which Aaron wrote, “ZB—This is the item I mentioned. State is holding up action, but this will have to be faced or Strauss may just act on his own.” (Ibid.)
  2. In Strauss’s August 22 memorandum to Vance and Brzezinski, he wrote, “At an early, mutually convenient time, I would like to talk to each of you—hopefully at the same time—with respect to our textile relations with the PRC. As you know, Canada has already negotiated bilateral agreements and the EC has taken unilateral action and contemplates a bilateral agreement in the immediate future, while we have really done nothing. I am concerned that we are neglecting the substantive problem and at the same time are failing to get political mileage which the Administration desperately needs with the textile community.” (Ibid.)
  3. The covering memorandum by Deal and Platt notes, “Chinese textile exports to the US have risen rapidly in recent years. During January–April 1978, US textile imports from the PRC were up 178% in volume terms over the corresponding period in 1977. As a result, the textile industry, labor unions, and their supporters in Congress are calling for action by the Administration to restrain Chinese exports. STR, Commerce and Labor want us to negotiate a formal restraint agreement with the PRC. We have raised textile issues discreetly with the Chinese on several occasions over the past six years, including a presentation at the Cabinet level by then Secretary of Commerce Richardson. In 1976, the EB and EA Bureaus in State recommended that we seek voluntary export restraints from the PRC. However, Kissinger ruled out that approach in view of the internal situation in China and the sensitive nature of US–PRC relations.” Deal and Platt then recommended that Brzezinski support the Department of State position that the United States discreetly express its concerns about Chinese textile exports to the Chinese Commercial Counselor, rather than publicly address the issue as Strauss wanted to do.