TFR 5 – Energy: The Imperative for a Trilateral Approach


The Trilateral Task Force on the Political and International Implications of the Energy Crisis assumes that the era of cheap and plentiful oil is over. The industrial countries face major problems of adjustment to uncertain energy supplies, high costs, and new requirements in political relations. Some of these problems are immediate; some are for the coming decade of continuing dependence on Middle East oil; some involve planning for the longer run. They can be met successfully only with policies elaborated in concert rather than in competition. In economics, our countries must contend with the short and long term effects of shortages and price increases on their national economies and on the international trading and monetary system, and the need to make early decisions on the development of new sources of energy. In politics, the trend toward politicization of international economic relations will be strengthened by the situation of relative scarcity in energy. Policies aimed at inducing the producers to keep producing and exporting oil will be needed, as will efforts to avert calamity in countries unable to meet the high price of oil. Above all, the Trilateral countries must cope with mounting pressures at home and modify accepted habits and lifestyles, while avoiding destructive competition among themselves and preserving their democratic institutions.

Among the three Trilateral areas, Europe is threatened with economic and financial crisis at a time of political weakness and disunity. Japan is highly vulnerable because of its energy dependence. North America is in a comparatively strong position, but it cannot take refuge in a policy of self-sufficiency and display unconcern for Europe and Japan without provoking reactions adverse to all. Europe and Japan cannot expect U.S. and Canadian assistance unless they impose strict measures on themselves. Vigorous coordinated action can help them all to reduce their oil dependence on the Middle East in the next decade.

The imperative for cooperation suggests a common long-range strategy and the following specific recommendations: (1) Conservation and efficiency of energy use Governments and private bodies should develop conservation programs on a priority basis, including investment, joint research, and generally agreed targets. (2) Assuring safe and adequate supplies Trilateral countries should coordinate policies to maximize bargaining power with the oil-exporting states, while creating inducements for them to keep up supplies, and developing alternative sources. (3) Emergency sharing They should agree now on a plan including (a) the definition of an emergency, (b) stockpiling, c) conservation, (d) emergency production, and (e) allocation of supplies. (4) Finance The consuming countries should aim to meet the impact of high oil prices by increasing exports to producers, recycling the latter group's balance-of-payments surplus funds to the countries which incurred the deficits, and providing help to those threatened with financial collapse. (5) Sharing of technology and joint R & D Governments must promote an extensive sharing of technology designed to increase efficiency and develop new energy sources. Priorities in research have to be established on the main lines of effort in developing sources of energy for the post-oil age.

In their relations with oil-producing countries, the consuming countries must try to build a continuing relationship in which both sides have a stake, This collaboration should look ahead to the time when the oil age fades out. Bilateral deals or regional approaches should take place within an agreed strategy serving the interests of the Trilateral countries as a whole. On political matters, a greater accommodation of approaches to such questions as the Arab-Israeli conflict or arms sales to Persian Gulf states would contribute to harmonizing oil policy with political and military objectives. The Middle East states should be encouraged to view their oil policies in the broader context of security and cooperation. In their relations with the U.S.S.R. and China, the Trilateral countries should explore the possibilities of obtaining increased energy supplies while avoiding any substantial dependence on these countries. The high costs and risks involved should be weighed against comparable investments elsewhere. In their relations with the LDCS, the developed countries should join in measures, to which the oil-producing countries should also contribute, to help the poorest nations threatened with disaster by price increases in oil and other essential products.

A master strategy is needed to set broad lines of policy for the Trilateral countries on the energy problem. An energy agency, logically one associated with the O.E.C.D., is required for consultation and coordination of policies.


John C. Campbell, Senior Research Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Guy de Carmoy, Professor, European Institute of Business Administration, Fontainbleau
Shinichi Kondo, former Ambassador of Japan to Canada

Table of Contents

Summary of the Report
I. The Scope of the Problem
A. Economics
B. Politics
C. Relative Positions of the Three Regio
II. The Need for Cooperation
A. Conservation and Efficient Use of Energy
B. Assuring Safe and Adequate Supplies
C. Sharing in an Emergency
D. The Financial Impact
E. Technology and Research
III. Relations with Other Countries
A. Oil-Producing Countries
B. The Soviet Union and China
C. Developing Countries
IV. Institutions
V. Conclusion

  • Topics: Energy
  • Region:  North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Pacific Asia
  • Publisher:  The Trilateral Commission
  • Publication Date:  © 1974
  • ISBN:  0-930503-58-9
  • Pages:  36
  • Complete Text: Click here to download