TFR 13 – Collaboration with Communist Countries in Managing Global Problems: An Examination of the Options


Constructive cooperation with Communist countries in a number of areas of global concern could make a significant contribution to solutions of the substantive problems involved without causing undue risks or intrusion in the internal affairs of participating countries. This report examines nine such areas. Potential Trilateral-Communist cooperation is worth continuing attention in all of them and, in some cases, deserves a major effort.

Food, nuclear exports and nonproliferation, oceans, and trade policy (Chapter II) emerge as the most promising areas for cooperation:

* The development of an international system of national food reserves is an important part of the attack on global food problems. Soviet participation in such a system would be important to its success. Large swings in Soviet import requirements will probably continue for some time, and without participation in a reserve system, these swings will continue to disrupt the world food market. The problem was not met by the 1975 five-year bilateral U.S.-Soviet grain agreement. The Soviet Union is a member of the International Wheat Council, in which the principal reserve system discussions have been underway since early 1975, although without any positive Soviet response so far. It appears to be in the Soviet interest to participate in a reserve system; it is not clear, however, that the Soviet Union recognizes this interest. If the U.S.S.R. did not participate, the countries forming the system would have to give first priority in fixing their export policy to other members in times of global shortage. China figures less heavily in the international grain trade than the U.S.S.R. Chinese participation is not essential to the reserve scheme, and is unlikely to occur.

* Common concern over the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation from nuclear exports has led to regular discussions in the London Nuclear Suppliers Group including most Trilateral countries, the Soviet Union, and some Eastern European states. The Group has demonstrated that East-West cooperation is possible in this area; differences have been greater among the Trilateral participants than between them and the Communist participants. The May 1977 Downing Street Summit of seven Trilateral countries agreed to launch an International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation Program. In view of the large capacity of the Soviet Union in this field it already possesses extensive reprocessing and enrichment facilities and has its own fast breeder reactor program it is essential that the U.S.S.R. be actively involved in the projected studies. China has played no role in international nuclear commerce, but has the potential to become a supplier country. It has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has denounced attempts by others to restrain proliferation.

* With regard to oceans management, prospects for cooperation appear more promising in the immediate future with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe than with China. If the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea reaches agreement on a treaty, cooperation will be needed in its implementation and enforcement. If the Law of the Sea Conference cannot agree on a treaty, cooperation will become all the more important: developed, countries will need to set broad norms of conduct for themselves and work out more detailed means of implementation in order to avert conflicting unilateral claims and policies.

* The volume of East-West economic transactions has greatly increased during the 1970s, particularly with the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. It is a matter of common interest that this trade be subjected to minimum agreed ground rules, in order to secure the expansion of transactions with more confidence than at present. A commitment to abide by an internationally-negotiated set of trade rules, or at least an internationally-negotiated set of procedures for arbitrating trade disputes, might be sought by Trilateral countries as a normal part of any bilateral, commercial agreement with members of COMECON. This need not mean full Soviet participation in GATT. We should seek agreement on broad criteria of performance to meet the special practices of state-controlled economies, but be prepared to settle initially for a well-articulated international complaints procedure. In Europe, new approaches to closer East-West economic collaboration are likely to be impeded, so long as the Soviet Union does not recognize the European Community. It should be no part of Trilateral policy to push for the establishment of new East-West trade contacts and arrangements at the expense of the EC common external commercial policy. Equally, Trilateral interests would not be served if the institutional arrangements for the conduct of EastWest trade on the Soviet side served to promote the power of a centralized organization in COMECON over the trade of individual Eastern European countries.

The areas of earthquake warning and energy (Chapter III), although offering somewhat less promise, warrant serious exploration.

* China's achievements in the field of earthquake prediction have been significant; it seems eager to share its experience with other nations. A number of exchanges have taken place between Chinese specialists and their counterparts in Japan, Canada and the United States. Chinese participation in a Japan-U.S. Seminar on Earthquake Prediction scheduled for 1978 would be an important breakthrough.

* Recent experience and future prospects make it difficult to be optimistic about early large-scale energy cooperation with either the Soviet Union or China. The political obstacles, on both the Trilateral and Communist sides, are formidable, but the subject warrants continuing exploration. Large-scale cooperation is more likely to follow rather than to precede a further easing of political tensions.

Development aid, space, and weather (Chapter IV) are the least promising areas for cooperation with the Communist countries, though such cooperation remains desirable. Aid cooperation is likely to be very limited given the essentially political considerations which have dominated Soviet aid and the absence of any sign of serious interest in joint efforts with Trilateral countries. Weather modification could eventually become a major field for international cooperation, but the technical progress needed to give scope to such activities is not likely in this century. In global space cooperation, the conservative Soviet policy makes it unlikely that large early opportunities will arise to involve the U.S.S.R.

Some of the constraints on Communist involvement in these global problems are determined by the political environment, The report discusses briefly (Chapter V) a few ways in which the parameters of the problem might be altered, over the next five to ten years, by political change in the U.S.S.R. and China. Likewise, the style and conduct of East-West relations by the Trilateral countries may also change. At present, some of the policies proposed in the report, particularly cooperation in establishing an international system of national grain reserves, appear sufficiently promising to be vigorously pursued. In the long run, even modest successes may change the atmosphere in which the wider problems of global management, likely to increase in importance as this century comes to a close, can be collectively addressed.


Chihiro Hosoya, Professor of International Relations, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo
Henry Owen, Director, Foreign Policy Studies, The Brookings Institution, Washington
Sir Andrew Shonfield, Director, Royal Institute of International Affairs

Table of Contents

Summary of the Report
I. Introduction
II. Most Promising Areas

A. Food
B. Nuclear Exports and Non-Proliferation
C. Oceans
D. Trade Policy
III. Areas With Considerable Promise
A. Earthquake Warning
B. Energy
IV. Desirable Areas With Modest Early Promise
A. Aid For Development
B. Space
C. Weather
V. Conclusion
A. U.S.S.R
B. China

  • Topics: Economics, Energy, Trade, Security, Multilateral Cooperation
  • Region:  North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Pacific Asia
  • Publisher:  The Trilateral Commission
  • Publication Date:  © 1977
  • ISBN:  0-930503-47-3
  • Pages:  33
  • Complete Text: Click here to download