131. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of the President’s Meeting with ASEAN Ministers


  • U.S.

    • The President
    • Secretary Blumenthal
    • Secretary Bergland
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Henry Owen, Special Representative of the President
    • David Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
    • Richard Cooper, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
    • Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia
    • Edward Masters, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia
    • Nicholas Platt, NSC Staff Member for East Asia
    • Anthony Geber, Advisor, East Asia Bureau, State Department
  • ASEAN Participants

    • General Carlos P. Romulo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Philippines
    • Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos, Minister of Ecology and Human Settlements, The Philippines
    • Ambassador Rosario Manolo, Director General, ASEAN Affairs, The Philippines
    • Widjojo Nitisastro, Coordinating Minister of Economics, Finance and Industry/Chairman of the National Planning Board, Indonesia
    • Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia
    • Sinnathamby Rajaratnam, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Singapore
    • Uppadit Pachariyangkun, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thailand
    • Radius Prawiro, Minister of Trade and Cooperatives, Indonesia
    • Cesar Virata, Minister of Finance, The Philippines
    • Gerardo Sicat, Minister of Economics Planning, Director General of National Economic and Development Authority, The Philippines
    • Vincente Paterno, Minister of Industry, Chairman, Board of Investments, The Philippines
    • Goh Chok Tong, Senior Minister of State for Finance
    • Prok Amarand, Deputy Minister of Commerce, Thailand
    • Arporna Sribhibhadh, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Thailand
    • D. Ashari, Indonesian Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Datuk Zain Azraai, Malaysian Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Edwardo Romualdez, Philippine Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Punch Coomaraswamy, Singaporean Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Klos Visessurakarn, Thai Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Datuk Ali Bin Abdullah, ASEAN Secretary-General
[Page 454]

President: I am honored and pleased you have come. The remarkable progress made by your five countries has aroused the admiration of everyone. I am particularly impressed with the rates of economic growth you have sustained over the past ten years and the open, hospitable climate you have created for private investment. The harmony which has developed among you, the stability of your societies and the dedication to peace you have demonstrated should serve as example for others and contrasts sharply with other countries in your area. We are proud to have you as friends, and grateful for the opportunity your presence in our country affords us to learn more about you.

I would like a brief report from Secretary Blumenthal on the progress of the ministerial meetings.2 Then I would like you to tell me what the United States can do to help ASEAN achieve its goals.

Secretary Blumenthal: This is the second day of a fruitful and constructive dialogue on economic issues. Secretaries Vance, Schlesinger, Kreps, Bergland and I have reviewed trends, progress, and problems in our respective areas. We have covered a wide variety of topics, including North-South issues, trade relations, investment, tax policy, and the development of new sources of energy, to name several. I reported on the Bonn Summit,3 on the importance we attach to working closely with the LDCs, and on our commitment to the Common Fund4 and commodity price stabilization. I reported in detail on your efforts to control inflation, perpetuate steady growth and stabilize the dollar.

Our ASEAN colleagues have not been shy in presenting their own points of view, or in voicing approval or dissatisfaction with what we have said.

President: Secretary Vance gave me a report on the Common Fund at breakfast this morning.5 This is an area in which we can move together.

Foreign Minister Romulo: Nothing I can say will adequately express how deeply honored, appreciative, and privileged we feel that you have taken time from your heavy schedule to be with us. The ministerial dialogue has been fruitful and constructive. It is an historic meeting that serves the interests of our countries and the United States in [Page 455] material ways. We came not to ask for favors but to enter into mutual agreements.

We have remained dedicated to freedom despite the fall of the dominoes around us. The end of the Vietnam War represented a low point. We are now turning another page, this one marked by good will, mutual understanding, and cooperation. Secretary Vance gave us an excellent briefing on global problems as you see them. We are enthusiastic about your attitude toward the Common Fund. The Fund will give us real strength. These meetings will have great benefit for all our peoples.

This morning, I noted in a press summary an article in the London Daily Telegraph which stated that the ASEAN meetings in Washington are evidence of the American stake in the Western Pacific and your determination not to pull out of the area militarily. The article also speculated that the meetings are a curtain raiser for a Carter trip to Asia. I hope the speculation is true. If you come, a rousing welcome awaits you.

President: Few people have incurred more admiration for their efforts in behalf of peace than General Romulo, particularly for his work in the United Nations.

The United States has an intense and abiding interest in Southeast Asia. Mistakes in the past have led to some tragic consequences. We have found that trade and investment are crucial to the stability and peace of the region. We have sent Vice President Mondale and several Cabinet officers to Southeast Asia to determine what we can do to help. They have reported on what they have found, on the tremendous growth in the region, and on the superb progress made on the production of food in Indonesia and other countries. We are proud of the commitment you have to political integrity and independence. At the same time your search for common ground and multilateral cooperation has been impressive. I have met leaders from 68 countries in Asia and Europe, and all, including specifically those from Japan, China, and Australia have expressed great interest in the viability of ASEAN and the success of your experiment.

Difficult problems remain. We need to cooperate on ways of helping the pitiful people who seek refuge in your countries. We would like to know what your plans are for dealing with the refugees and what we can do to help. We want your advice without shyness or hesitation. There are great opportunities for cooperation in the future, particularly in the fields of trade and investment. Your meetings with Commerce Secretary Kreps could be particularly advantageous. I realize that differences exist on particular trade and investment issues, including repatriation of profits. That is understandable. I recognize also that you have disparate rates of growth and levels of per capita [Page 456] income, with Singapore for example standing out as one of the most prosperous states in Asia.

We have a lot to learn from ASEAN and need to strengthen our friendship. I have no more important responsibility than this. I thank you for being here and hope that this brief meeting will broaden further the dialogue between us.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Platt Chron File, Box 65, 8/1–10/78. Confidential. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
  2. No records of the sessions have been found. For Secretary Vance’s statement at the opening session, his and Foreign Secretary Romulo’s August 4 press conference, and the joint press statement issued at the end of the conference, see Department of State Bulletin, September 1978, pp. 19–25.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. III, Foreign Economic Policy, Documents 145148.
  4. At the end of its fourth session in Nairobi, Kenya, in May 1976, UNCTAD agreed to consider the establishment of the Common Fund to finance a buffer stock program designed to smooth out primary commodity price fluctuations.
  5. The breakfast meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House, 7:30–9:41 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary)
  6. For the White House statement issued following this meeting, see Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book II, pp. 1378–1379.