219. Action Memorandum From the Secretary of State’s Special Representative for Panama Treaty Affairs (Popper), the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Vaky) and the Department of State Legal Advisor (Hansell) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1

Circular 175 Request for Authority to Negotiate and Conclude Panama Canal Treaty Implementing Arrangements


The process of planning and preparing for implementation of the Panama Canal Treaties and related agreements, which will enter into force October 1, 1979, is now well underway. Representatives of our Embassy, the Panama Canal Company/Canal Zone Government, and the U.S. Southern Command are meeting with their Panamanian counterparts on an almost daily basis to draw up implementing plans and arrangements of various types. In connection with this process, conclusion of a number of agreements with the Government of Panama will be necessary. This memorandum requests Circular 175 authority2 to negotiate and conclude minor operating agreements with Panama, subject to the concurrence of S/PTA, L and ARA.


The Panama Canal Treaty and related agreements provide for the conclusion of further implementing agreements between the Parties on a wide range of matters. Three of the more significant agreements were signed recently—a treaty concerning the transfer of prisoners, an agreement providing for permanent U.S. maintenance of the American sector of Corozal Cemetery, and an agreement concerning the status of the Federal Aviation Administration in Panama.3 Several other agreements are now under consideration, including an agreement for the [Page 523] use of an area of land in Panama by the U.S. military for tropic testing purposes, an agreement for the repayment of debts owed by Panama to the U.S., and an agreement concerning the mode and timing of the payments to be made to Panama pursuant to the Canal Treaty. In addition, a large number of routine operating arrangements will be needed.

Negotiations in which Embassy or Department personnel are to be involved are subject to applicable Circular 175 procedures. Negotiations to be carried out by other agencies are subject to a recently enacted statute (P.L. 95-426 §708(c); 92 Stat 993) which requires consultation with the Department prior to conclusion of an international agreement. (The Department is still in the process of developing detailed regulations to implement this statute.)

We request Circular 175 authority for the negotiation and signature4 of minor agreements with Panama in implementation of the Canal Treaties and related agreements, such as agreements related to the importation of goods, procedures for customs inspections, procedures related to the use of telecommunications, and agreements relating to the use of military school, hospital and commissary facilities. The negotiation and signature of such minor agreements would be subject to the concurrence of S/PTA, L, and ARA. Similarly, Ambassador Popper would be authorized, as regards matters of Panama Canal Treaty implementation, to supervise the conduct of the consultations with the Department required of other agencies by statute. Proposed agreements of any substantial political or economic significance or of major interest to the Congress, such as the proposed agreement on repayment by Panama of debts owed to the Panama Canal agencies and on a schedule for payments to Panama pursuant to the Panama Canal Treaty, would require separate Circular 175 authorization.

In the case of the minor operating agreements covered by this request for Circular 175 authority, the Embassy would be instructed to include a discussion of relevant policy and legal considerations in telegraphic requests for approval. Once we are satisfied that the issues of legal authority, need for Congressional consultations, and other Circular 175 requirements have been satisfactorily addressed in each case, Ambassador Popper would inform the Embassy of the Department’s concurrence.


That you (a) grant Circular 175 authority for the Department and the Embassy to negotiate and conclude minor agreements with the [Page 524] Republic of Panama in implementation of the Panama Canal Treaties and related agreements subject to the concurrence of S/PTA, L and ARA, and (b) authorize Ambassador David H. Popper to supervise consultations with the Department required by statute of other agencies proposing to enter into agreements with Panama concerning Treaty implementation.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P790062–1833. Unclassified. Drafted by Kozak on March 12 and cleared in L/T, L, and ARA/PAN.
  2. The Department of State developed “Circular 175 procedure” regulations to ensure that the power to make treaties was exercised properly. Two types of Circular 175 requests exist. One requires the approval of full powers (defined as heads of State and Foreign Ministers) to sign treaties that will be sent to the Senate by the President for advice and consent to ratification. The other, more typical request occurs in the form of an action memorandum from a Department of State Bureau or office to a Department official at the Assistant Secretary level or above and requests authority to “negotiate, conclude, amend, extend, or terminate an international agreement.” (www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/c175/, accessed 15 November 2015)
  3. See Document 204.
  4. An unknown hand, presumably Christopher’s, underlined “and signature.”
  5. Christopher checked the approve option on April 23.