File No. 800.88/142
The Chargé in Great Britain ( Laughlin) to the Secretary of State
[Received 10 p.m.]
10246. To Hurley, Gay, McAdoo, McCormick and Hoover from Stevens:
Ship Mission No. 186. Referring to my Embassy No. 9877 of May 4  to President Wilson and to Board’s Navy No. 118.1 The British War Cabinet [has] adopted the recommendation of the Allied Maritime Transport Council and of the Inter-Allied Council on War Purchases and Finance, that Allied committees should be constituted immediately for the purpose of adjusting Allied programs of imports and purchases, and has ordered the various governmental agencies specially concerned with particular classes of imports to name British representatives for the appropriate Allied committees. The French and Italian Governments have taken similar action. All three Governments are most anxious that the United States shall appoint representatives on each of the committees in order that they may get to work immediately.
My own belief is that such action by the United States is necessary in order to secure the most effective use of the tonnage and financial resources of the Associated Governments and I hope it may be taken promptly.
The Allied import program committees now existing or to be constituted are the following: Wheat Executive, Meats and Fats Executive, Sugar Executive, Oil Seed Executive, Munitions Council, Nitrates Executive,2 Petroleum Conference, Wool Committee, Cotton Committee, Jute, Hemp and Flax Committee, Timber Committee, Hides and Leather Committee, Paper Committee. The foregoing organizations are to cover all imports including finished products as well as raw materials.
The exact scope of the Munitions Council, which will sit in Paris, has not yet been determined, but as at present contemplated it is to make the program for finished products used by the armies and raw materials required, therefore including tanks and motor trucks and perhaps railway materials and equipment, but possibly excluding quartermaster’s supplies. The Nitrates Committee will sit in London and will report to the Munitions Council being in fact a subcommittee of that council. All the committees except the Munitions Council are to sit in London.[Page 573]
The proposal to create these program committees did not originate with the British Government, but first received support from the French and Italian Governments. The British Government was rather reluctant to accept it and only did so after becoming convinced of the practical necessity of forming the committees in order to utilize Allied tonnage and financial resources to the best advantage in prosecuting the war, and after satisfying itself as to the committees’ functions and powers [which] are enumerated below.
The United States, in addition to its general interest in securing the effective use of Allied resources, has a special interest for the following reasons: It already is the principal source of financial support of the Allied cause. By reason of its rapidly increasing construction of ships, it will soon command an important and constantly growing share of the tonnage in the service of war needs. Therefore it has an obvious special interest in making sure that the credit and tonnage furnished by it are not wastefully or improvidently used. The purpose in creating the program committees is to secure this end.
It is not now possible to give you the details of the method of work of these committees. They will each work out their own methods in accordance with the necessities of their specific problems. I can only indicate the scope of their action in a general way.
The program committees are to have no executive power. The name executive by which some of those now in existence are called is therefore a misnomer. Their function will be merely to agree upon and recommend the adoption of joint Allied programs of purchases and imports, after ascertaining and considering jointly minimum requirements of each of the Associated Nations in the light of the shortage of tonnage, of knowledge of existing stocks in each country, of available financial resource, and all other relevant facts. It is hoped that their recommendations, while in no way binding, will be acceptable to all the Governments. The national representatives on the committees are expected to be men of ability, whose judgment will be trusted, and should include men of high technical qualifications. They will be in constant communication with the appropriate departments of their Governments, so that it is unlikely that they will agree in conclusions which will not be approved. They will have to satisfy themselves and their Governments of the real needs of the other Associated Nations, and the decision of each Government in regard to its own program, will thus be influenced by the knowledge so obtained of the true situation in the other countries, and of the importations necessary for each country to maintain its national life, and to secure the means of effectively carrying on the war.[Page 574]
There is no disposition here by means of this new organization to press the United States to make unreasonable reductions of its imports. The other Governments realize that the United States cannot be expected in one year to go as far as they have gone in four years, and also the tonnage required to carry American imports is relatively small as compared with that required by other countries, but it is generally felt that the plan cannot work satisfactorily if the United States does not come in. The presence of the United States on the committees is desired in large part as a moderating and arbitrating element. France and Italy, for example, feel they will be quite overshadowed by Great Britain with its great tonnage resources if the United States is not there to make its influence count.
I strongly urge that the United States join the other Allied countries in creating the program committees, and that its representatives may be appointed as soon as possible. In my judgment this is essential for the success of the work not only of the Allied Maritime Transport Council, but also of the Inter-Allied Council on War Purchases and Finance. Stevens.
- The latter not printed.↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 2, vol. I, pp. 666 et seq. ↩