191. Briefing Memorandum From the Secretary of State’s Special Representative for Panama Treaty Affairs (Popper) to Acting Secretary of State Christopher1


  • Panama Canal Treaty Implementation: Status Report

1. Economic Aid Package Laid On. September 7, the first anniversary date of the signing of the Panama Canal Treaties, passed without any particular comment or observance in the United States. In Panama, our Charge concluded an exchange of notes on that day to activate preparations for carrying out the package of economic and military assistance measures envisaged as a concomitant of the Canal Treaties, though separate from them. Subject to compliance with our legislative and administrative procedures, we are now committed to work with Panama to effectuate a five-year program of Export-Import Bank loans and guarantees, AID housing guarantees, and OPIC guarantees for Panama’s National Development Bank, as well as a ten-year foreign military sales credit program.

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2. Slow Progress on Organizational Matters. We are laboriously perfecting with DOD a Memorandum of Understanding on the authority of the US Ambassador in Panama,2 to elaborate upon the succinct language included in our draft implementing legislation as a result of the agreement you reached with Deputy Defense Secretary Duncan.3 You will recall that he had suggested that such a memorandum be prepared, for your signatures. We are likewise gradually pressing through DOD a joint memorandum to set up the arrangements approved in general terms by the President August 1,4 for the coordination of US policies on Canal Treaty matters. This memorandum will also establish coordinating machinery for use during the period between now and the date when the Treaties come into force—a subject not addressed in the Presidential memorandum.5 One of our problems in this and other matters is the understandable concern of Secretary of the Army Alexander and the Panama Canal Company regarding possible limitations on their statutory authority, as their actions increasingly impinge upon the Treaty implementation process.

3. First Consultative Meeting in Panama. I recently informed you of General Torrijos’ feeling, shared in other Panamanian quarters, that we were dragging our feet in preparing for Treaty implementation.6 We hope to help counteract this erroneous impression, in a trip which my Defense counterpart and I will be making to Panama for higher level consultations during the week beginning September 17.7 While in Panama we will confer with the newly designated Panamanian treaty implementation team, as well as with our own principal officials in country. We will inform the Panamanians of the steps we have taken to gear up for Treaty implementation; review with them the substantial initial planning moves undertaken by our respective officials in the Canal area; lay out the major policy problems we see ahead; and exchange views with the Panamanians on these matters. We expect the meeting to be beneficial, both substantively and cosmetically, and it is welcomed by the Panamanians.

4. Proposed Letter from the Secretary. To establish our credentials for the meeting, we are preparing a letter8 from the Secretary to the [Page 470] Panamanian Foreign Minister, explaining our mission and our functions, and the contribution we hope to make to successful Treaty implementation. The letter should also be helpful in our efforts to facilitate coordination among the concerned US Government elements. We will send it forward through you, as soon as we receive Defense Department clearance.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P790020–1621. Limited Official Use.
  2. See Document 201.
  3. See Document 186.
  4. See Document 188.
  5. See footnote 4 above.
  6. In an August 25 briefing memorandum to Christopher, Popper reported on Torrijos’s concerns that implementation of the treaties had stagnated. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P790013–1806).
  7. See Document 194.
  8. See Document 192.