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1. The debate over a new treaty in the United States should concentrate on what is at stake for the United States.
Many opponents of a treaty focus largely on debatable legal aspects of the issue, claiming the Panama Canal is sovereign U.S. territory, just like Alaska or other parts of the United States. In fact, the United States has neither ownership nor sovereignty in the Panama Canal. Rather, the 1903 treaty gave us rights. Those rights are in jeopardy now because over the last several decades Panamanians have increasingly objected to their country being cut in half by a strip of land where Americans have exclusive rights and where American law rules.
It is not difficult to imagine how Americans would feel if the United States were forced to tolerate the existence of a 10-mile-wide strip of land on each side of the Mississippi River which was under the jurisdiction of a foreign power. We would not tolerate such a partition and neither will the Panamanians continue to accept it.
Sovereignty and ownership are not at stake for us in the Panama Canal. We have never had either. The only sure course to preserve rights in the Canal Zone is to work with the Panamanians to negotiate a new system of relationships which can allow for the continued efficient and secure operations of the Canal. The present treaty does not insure either a safe or a secure Canal, given Panamanian opposition to the present treaty.
2. While it may not be possible to reach agreement on all substantive issues in a new treaty before the 1976 elections, earnest negotiations should continue in an effort to resolve the major outstanding issues and reach agreement on a draft treaty.
Such a course is preferable to waiting and drifting. The real question is whether Panamanians, who are being provoked by anti-American groups, will patiently await the results of our elections and subsequent ratification of a treaty.
3. Supporters of a new treaty must work to educate the American people and Members of Congress about the need for it.
To date, most of the discussion has come from opponents to a new treaty who wish to preserve the 1903 treaty and the rights they feel were guaranteed by it.
Three groups must be particularly active in support of a new treaty:
(a) The executive branch-particularly the State Department, Defense Department, and the White House-must work to present the merits of a new treaty. Spokesmen of all three groups should leave adequate time to discuss the proposed treaty both before the Congress and the American people.
(b) Members of Congress who support a new treaty need to explain to their colleagues the importance of concluding a new treaty and to indicate why a treaty is needed.
(c) Other Americans, especially those with important business interests in Panama and Latin America, who see the need
From November 21 to November 23, 1975, we undertook a study mission to the Republic of Panama, the purpose of which was to learn more about the Panama Canal and the status of negotiations for a new Panama Canal Treaty.
During our visit we talked to scores of Panamanian and American officials and visited the facilities of the Canal. This brief study mission proved beneficial and useful. While some of our colleagues in Congress may dissent from the findings and recommendations in this report, we hope that this report will encourage members to examine this issue carefully and, if need be, to travel to Panama. Without doubt, Congress will soon confront the important foreign policy issues raised by the proposed new treaty. The better acquainted we are with the complicated and difficult issues involved, the better we will understand and promote our Nation's best interest.
We were accompanied on this study mission by Michael H. Van Dusen, staff consultant for the Special Subcommittee on Investigations of the House International Relations Committee, representatives of the Departments of State and Defense, and a member of the White House National Security Council staff.
We wish to acknowledge with appreciation the helpful and unfailingly courteous support given to us during our visit to Panama by many Americans, both in the Embassy and in the Canal Zone, and by several Panamanians. Their many efforts on our behalf and their generous gift of time made this study mission successful. We are indebted especially to William J. Jorden, U.S. Ambassador to Panama, and John D. Blacken, Political Counselor to the Embassy.
The findings and recommendations presented here are our own. We hope this report is helpful to our colleagues and will stimulate further interest in this important foreign policy issue.
LEE H. HAMILTON,