65. Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan 1


  • A Strategy for Cancun

We need a carefully constructed strategy to achieve US objectives at Cancun. A number of countries are already working in informal caucuses (France, Mexico, India and Sweden) to gain their objectives which are not necessarily ours.

The US has multiple objectives to achieve at Cancun.

1. To use the Summit to develop personal relationships between you and other heads of state or government that can be useful in achieving bilateral and regional objectives;

2. To emphasize that the US is sensitive to the economic development problems and concerns of the developing countries, that it has a [Page 231] positive record of support and that it is committed to further efforts by itself and in concert with others.

3. To demonstrate that we have a positive, substantive program for addressing the problems of the developing nations—one which integrates foreign assistance, trade, investment, and technical assistance;

4. To explain our foreign economic policy toward developing countries and launch, if possible, a cooperative international effort toward a “new era of growth;”

5. To arrive at a satisfactory solution to the issue of Global Negotiations,2 including a follow-on consultative process if necessary; and

6. To reinforce our bilateral relationship with Mexico by contributing to Lopez Portillo’s prestige3 and having the conference end successfully.

A majority of the countries attending Cancun views it as an opportunity to apply political leverage to the more conservative countries (UK, FRG, Japan and Saudi Arabia) but especially to the US. They want the US:

To accept a commitment to assist in the economic development of the developing world through concessional assistance, technical help, and support for their objective of increasing exports and investment, without an overlay of East/West over North/South;
To accept a commitment to negotiations in the political framewok of the UN (i.e. Global Negotiations),
To accept a commitment for immediate help on the pressing problems of financing energy production and imports, providing adequate food security, and increasing assistance to the very poor countries who participate only marginally in the world economy.

The objectives of the majority can best be achieved in multilateral political meetings. The US objectives are best achieved in the multilateral functional organizations (GATT, IMF, World Bank), regionally, and bilaterally. We therefore need a strategy that emphasizes multilateral functional, regional, and bilateral contacts over multilateral political participation.

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A Bilateral Strategy

While the plenary meeting will be at center stage at Cancun and your statements there will be the major element of your presentation, the bilateral meetings will enable you to carry the US position and your commitment to development cooperation in a more personal manner. Given time limitations, you will need to focus your time on the participants from developing countries. I suggest you see all developing country heads of state or government for at least a courtesy meeting. You can spend more time with key developing countries (China, India, Tanzania, Algeria, and Nigeria) for discussion of bilateral and multilateral issues. These key countries should be seen first on Wednesday, October 21, to stress, bilaterally, our key multilateral objectives.

The US will attempt to hold the multilateral aspects of the meeting within the agreed procedures of the August 1–2 preparatory meeting: An open and informal meeting with no agenda and no communique.4 A summary of the conference will be provided by the co-chairmen, on their own responsibility, soon after its close on October 23.5

A Press Strategy

The press will be frozen out of the conference hotel, and all contacts must be made elsewhere. We are setting up an American press center. There will be little coverage of the multilateral meeting until the final press conference by Lopez Portillo and Kreisky. The press will be hungry. We plan to arrange some way for the bilaterals to be covered by press and photographers so a constant stream of US meetings is the news from Cancun. Secondly, frequent press briefings by US spokesmen on the multilateral meeting should follow the pattern established in Ottawa.6

Your Speech on or About October 14

This speech should put you in a forward posture, advocating a positive and specific program and seeking international cooperation.7 It should contain specific elements and your substantive approach, since you will not have the time to spell this out at Cancun.

The speech should be oriented toward a domestic audience and stress US interests (economic, political and humanitarian) in developing countries. It should explain the link between domestic economic recovery and a healthy world economy. (One in eight jobs is tied to US [Page 233] exports; the product from one in every three acres harvested is sold abroad.) You are, therefore, going to Cancun to establish the basis of a “new era of growth” for the mutual benefit of all countries. Key to this program in the US view are open trade, increased investment flows, access to energy, and adequate food supplies. Concessional aid will be important for the poorest countries and for projects which cannot be financed by the private sector.

Your speech to the IMF/IBRD annual meetings,8 Don Regan’s speech to the same group,9 and my presentation to the UNGA lay out our general policy.10 The October 14 speech would put flesh on these bones and explains to the public why you are committing your time to the Cancun meeting.

Statement for the Opening Session at Cancun

Timing of the statement will be important.11 This can be arranged with the Mexicans and Austrians. The statement will be the keynote off of which others will respond. I would suggest that you speak in third or fourth position, after the Mexican introductory statement.

The statement should express our sensitivity to LDC problems, explain our record, and lay out our policy, including the desire to establish a new “era of growth.” This new era must be built on certain basic elements (trade, investment, energy, food, and concessional assistance to the poorer nations). Our initiative package is tied to these basic elements (see attachment).12

The statement should also contain our first public word on the issue of Global Negotiations. I don’t believe an earlier announcement of our position would be useful. We will not satisfy everyone, and an early disclosure of the position will just set us up for criticism.13

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Edwin Meese Files, Cabinet and Cabinet Councils Material, Cabinet Matters Files, Cancun Summit Meeting 10/21/1981–10/23/1981—Preparation Materials [2 of 7]. Secret. Also scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations 1981–1988, vol. XXXVIII, International Economic Development; International Debt; Foreign Assistance. On October 5, the President, Haig, Meese, Baker, Deaver, Anderson, Kirkpatrick, Brock, Darman, Fuller, Bush, Allen, Nau, Tyson, and Gergen met in the Cabinet Room from 3:19 until 4:34 p.m. to discuss the Cancun summit. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) According to Gergen’s handwritten notes of the meeting, Haig stated: “Need finite decision today for bureaucracy to move fwd re Cancun. There are some legitimate differences between depts. 5 initiatives have been developed at the departmental level. Each one alone subj. to criticism but together, very positive. USSR & Cuba have alienated 3rd world. The 3rd world is up for grabs. Should seize the initiative. —If we do less, will leave us in tepid waters. Will isolate us w/3rd world & Europeans will side w/3rd world.” (Reagan Library, David Gergen Files, Subject File, Cancun—[Summit])
  2. In A/RES/34/138, “Global Negotiations Relating to International Economic Co-Operation for Development,” adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 14, 1979, the United Nations endorsed the initiation of Global Negotiations on development and international economic relations to take place during its 1980 special session. For additional information, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1979, p. 465. Documentation on the negotiations is also printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. III, Foreign Economic Policy, Documents 338, 344, and 348350.
  3. Reference is to Lopez Portillo’s role as chair of the summit meeting.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 59.
  5. Trudeau was the honorary co-chairman of the summit meeting with Lopez Portillo. Their October 23 summary statement, released at the conclusion of the summit, is printed in Department of State Bulletin, December 1981, pp. 5–9.
  6. Reference is to the July 20–21 G–7 Economic Summit meeting; see Document 57.
  7. Reference is to the President’s October 15 remarks before the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia; see Document 66.
  8. The President spoke during the opening session of the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), the International Development Association (IDA), and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at the Sheraton Washington Hotel on September 29. For the text of his remarks, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1981, pp. 854–856.
  9. Regan addressed the meeting on September 30. For additional information, see Hobart Rowen, “Regan Predicts Growing Industrial-World Strength,” Washington Post, October 1, 1981, pp. D11, D16.
  10. See Document 63.
  11. See Document 68.
  12. Attached but not printed is an undated paper entitled “Summary of Possible Initiatives.”
  13. Under an October 13 covering memorandum, Darman and Fuller circulated to Bush, Haig, Regan, Meese, Brock, Kirkpatrick, James Baker, Deaver, Allen, Anderson, and Gergen a memorandum setting forth the U.S. policy on Global Negotiations and a summary of “substantive themes and initiatives” regarding the administration’s approach to development. (Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Trip File, President Reagan’s Participation in the International Meeting on Cooperation and Development, Cancun, Mexico 10/21/1981–10/23/1981 Bilateral Meetings—The President (Binder) (2); NLR–755–2–33–32–0)