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


  • Progress of Implementing Legislation

As a result of lengthy meetings between staffs and principals, the House-Senate Conference on the Panama implementing legislation reached agreement on further changes. The result appears to be satisfactory to all or almost all the conferees. Congressman Bauman opined that the current version represented about all that the House could get. He signed the report but refused to indicate he would vote for the bill in the House, limiting himself to stating that he would inform the membership it was the best possible deal.

The new version will include the following:

1. A provision to prevent the President from transferring the Canal itself and certain associated property to Panama before the year 2000.

2. A provision to ensure that all Treaty implementation costs associated with the operation and maintenance of the Canal are paid before Panama can receive any of its contingent annuity. (It was stated during the colloquy that DOD defense costs are not included.)2

3. Satisfactory language on the wartime control issue, virtually as agreed last week, but with a stipulation in the report that if foreign [Page 585] forces—i.e., Soviet or Cuban—were stationed in Panama, this would be deemed a threat to the security of the Canal and would lead to U.S. military control.

4. A provision that three of the five U.S. Directors must come from private life, and a provision that one member must be drawn from each of three interest groups—ports, shipping and labor. What is new is that either private or public members could serve to represent these interest groups.

5. The previously agreed, redundant provision that the President should not accept the retroactive taxation of U.S. businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals now located in the Canal Zone.

The leadership hopes to get a special rule in the House, waiving the three-day rule for the consideration of the Conference Report. If this is successful, House debate could take place Wednesday3 or even Tuesday;4 if not, the earliest date would be Thursday.5

We believe the bill preserves all our essential positions.

David H. Popper6
Special Representative of the Secretary for Panama Treaty Affairs
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary, Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 21, Memos to WC From Offices/Bureaus—1979. Limited Official Use. Christopher drew an arrow and wrote at the top of the memorandum: “David Popper.”
  2. Christopher highlighted the first three paragraphs and wrote in the right margin on September 25: “Used in call to John Rhodes today—very helpful.”
  3. September 26.
  4. September 25.
  5. September 27.
  6. Popper signed his initials above the typed signature.