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Panama Canal Treaties Letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate Transmitting Proposed Legislation.

January 23, 1979

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

I am pleased to forward herewith the text of proposed legislation to implement the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977 and its Related Agreements. I would appreciate its urgent consideration and timely passage by the Congress.

Senate approval of the Canal Treaties last April, and the delivery of instruments of ratification in June, marked the beginning of a new and important phase in our relations with the Republic of Panama and other nations of the Hemisphere. Under the Treaties, the United States will retain operational control of the Canal and primary responsibility for its defense until the end of this century. Panama will participate in the operation and defense of the Canal and will assume full responsibility for its operation when the Canal Treaty expires. Under a second treaty approved by the Senate the United States retains, permanently, the right to defend the Canal against any threat to its neutrality.

The constitutional processes of both countries have now been completed, and the treaties will enter into effect on October 1, 1979. Under their terms, on that date the Canal Zone will cease to exist, the United States Government agencies known as the Panama Canal Company and the Canal Zone Government will cease to operate within Panama, and general jurisdiction over the area as well as the performance of a number of important support functions will pass to Panama. Property transfers will become effective in accordance with Treaty provisions.

Under the Treaty, we will acquire extensive obligations and rights with respect to the Canal on October 1. We will not, however, be in a position to exercise these rights in a manner which will fully protect our interests in the Canal unless legislative action is taken promptly. To assure a smooth transition and continued efficient Canal operation once the new Treaties come into force, the legislative framework—in which the agencies responsible for operating and defending the Canal will be operating—must be established well in advance so that they may make the necessary plans and preparations.

Delay in adopting the legislation beyond May 31, 1979, could thus make conversion to the new system of Canal operation and defense less efficient and more costly. Moreover, uncertainty concerning the proposed legislative protection and benefits for Canal employees will increasingly affect employee morale and complicate the process of making necessary personnel adjustments. The consequent disruptive impact on the work force could reduce the efficiency of Canal operations and adversely affect the interests of U.S. shippers and consumers.

Our stewardship of the Panama Canal has been one of the outstandingly successful undertakings of American history. I urge the Congress to consider this legislation as a step toward the completion of another chapter in that history—one in which we will join with Panama to keep the Canal open, efficient and secure. In doing so, I am confident that this Government will maintain a system of management and a standard of performance of which all Americans can continue to be proud.


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Walter F. Mondale, President of the Senate.

Jimmy Carter, Panama Canal Treaties Letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate Transmitting Proposed Legislation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249687

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