169. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Christopher to President Carter 1

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

Panama Canal Treaties. With the ratification of the Treaties behind us, we will be following up in a number of areas. Attached is a memorandum outlining next steps.


Memorandum 2

Next Steps on the Panama Treaties

Following up on the Senate’s approval of the Panama Canal Treaties, we are initiating our planning in the following areas:

Treaty Ratification. We are preparing materials which would be useful if you visit Panama.3 We will have drafts in readiness as your plans develop. These will be keyed to the time schedule envisaged as a result of Senator Brooke’s reservation:4 a relatively early ceremonial exchange of instruments of ratification by you and General Torrijos; an effective ratification date of March 31, 1979, and the beginning of the thirty-month treaty transition period on October 1, 1979.

Implementing Legislation. For use during the Senate debate, we made available an informal text of draft legislation which should be adopted before the Treaties go into force. Major points concern:

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—organization and procedures of the Panama Canal Commission;

—the setting and alteration of tolls;

—employment, recruiting and retirement;

—courts and legal arrangements;

—authority of the Ambassador; and

—miscellaneous provisions with respect to bilateral relations, security, health matters and the like.

Through OMB we are now completing inter-agency clearance of the draft legislation. We must consult the Congressional leadership on the timing of formal submission: the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee is anxious to begin hearings soon. We expect the legislation to be considered by perhaps four committees in each House before enactment, next year. When we resubmit the legislation to the new Congress, we hope to arrange a time agreement with the leadership for early completion of Congressional action.

Economic Package. You will recall that our negotiators agreed that, entirely apart from the Treaties, we would use our best efforts to make available to Panama up to $295 million over five years in loans and guarantees for economic assistance purposes, and up to $50 million in FMS credits over ten years to prepare the Panama National Guard for its defense role. We believe we should proceed promptly to put the programs we have envisaged into effect, as they would be helpful in coping with Panama’s depressed economic conditions.

U.S. Government Organization for Treaty Implementation. When the Treaties become effective, the Canal will be operated by the Panama Canal Commission, in which Panama has minority representation. In this sense, Canal management will take place in conjunction with Panama. We believe it is important that, while maintaining continuity and profiting from experience, the United States Government should adapt its bureaucratic machinery to the new requirements. At our suggestion, Jim McIntyre is completing a memorandum to you embodying the views of concerned Departments on this subject.5

Implementation Planning with Panama. We will want to begin promptly to conclude implementation arrangements on a series of matters as to which we are obligated to consult with Panama:

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—an agreement covering exchange of prisoners similar to the Mexican treaty of this type. We are committed to the Senate to do this by formal treaty;

—an agreement covering the continuation of Federal Aviation Agency activities in Panama; and

—a schedule for the transfer of property and jurisdiction during the first thirty-month transition period.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 20, Evening Reports (State), 4/78. Secret. Carter initialed the memorandum and wrote: “Warren.” Vance was in Moscow meeting with General Secretary Brezhnev.
  2. Secret.
  3. Carter visited Panama June 16–17 to exchange the instruments of ratification with Torrijos. See Documents 183 and 185.
  4. The Brooks reservation required that exchange of the instruments of ratification become effective no earlier than March 31, 1979, unless Congress enacted legislation to implement the treaties before that date.
  5. See Document 188. Carter wrote in the left margin: “Let’s plan all of this very thoroughly & carefully—attentive to congressional sensitivities. I’ll help.”