50. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1
- Your Question on Panama
Your note on my memorandum of June 72 asked if the House must approve any property transfers involved in a new treaty, as Rhodes mentioned. The Executive Branch has taken the position, and so testified before Congress, that since treaties are the supreme law of the land, they are as valid a way to transfer property as legislation; and no legislation is required. Some members of the House, especially the subcommittee of the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee with jurisdiction over the Canal, have contested that view. Provided the Executive Branch can sustain the principle, whether or not the House is in fact involved in the property transfer question becomes a matter of tactics.
To insure that the House Committee does not lose jurisdiction—a point which caused problems in 1967 treaty drafts—we have secured agreement with Panama that the new Canal operating entity will be an agency of the U.S. Government. The House Committee would retain jurisdiction over tolls, labor relations and the like.
Your other notation—that under a new treaty the U.S. cannot give Panama payments exceeding profits generated by Canal operations—accords with our negotiators’ current instructions. There is likely, however, to be hard bargaining on that point. I have conveyed your concern on that score to the negotiating team.