Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Roy Veatch of the Office of the Adviser on International Economic Affairs
|Participants:||Mr. William B. Todd, European Representative, Steel Export Association of America, and Representative of American Consumers on the Advisory Panel of the International Tin Committee,|
Mr. Todd came to Washington for a series of discussions regarding the international regulation of tin. Mr. A. L. Viles, American representative on the International Rubber Regulation Committee, sat in on some of these discussions in as much as the attitude of this Government and of American consumers toward both the tin and rubber schemes was given consideration.
In the course of these discussions Mr. Todd supplied the following information: [Page 944]
- Mr. Todd himself has had no opportunity to study the tin situation in this country and has not as yet discussed American requirements with the American consumers. His appointment came in June while he was in Europe and, although he has attended three meetings of the International Committee, he has had no opportunity until this time to return to this country to go over the matter.
- He is meeting with the Executive Committee of the American Iron and Steel Institute on Wednesday to discuss his duties as representative of American consumers on the Advisory Panel of the International Committee. It is his impression that all of the members of the Executive Committee of the A. I. S. I. are manufacturers of tin plate and will be in a good position to discuss the matter, although he intends to suggest the creation of a special subcommittee of the Institute representing the principal tin plate manufacturers. He will urge that adequate statistical data be assembled, probably through the office of the Institute, to give him at all times up-to-date information regarding the requirements of tin in this country, information similar to that worked up by the Rubber Manufacturers Association for Mr. Viles in connection with his representations to the International Rubber Committee.
- Mr. Todd was nominated by the Executive Committee of the American Iron and Steel Institute, to take the place formerly held by Mr. John Hughes, Sr. on the Advisory Panel of the International Tin Committee. The Executive Committee of the Institute acted on this matter because tin plate manufacturers consume regularly more than 50 percent of the tin imported into this country. At the same time the other principal consumers of tin were invited to express their opinion on the suggested nomination and as a result the nomination was endorsed by the National Lead Association (requiring 15 to 20 percent of total tin used in the country) and the American Can and Continental Can companies, the largest users of tin plate. The American Automobile Association (using perhaps 10 to 15 percent of the total) replied that automobile manufacturers did not have sufficient direct interest in the matter to express an opinion. (On this point Mr. Viles volunteered the information that he had been informed by Mr. Reeves, Secretary of the Association, that the automobile manufacturers had declined to participate because of their desire to refrain from any form of cooperation with the Government.) Mr. Todd hopes that the other principal tin users may be led to cooperate with the tin plate manufacturers in supplying information and in determining the attitude of the American consumers toward the work of the International Committee.
- At one point in the conversation Mr. Todd noted the fact that the steel people had raised some question as to the desirability of his coming to Washington for conferences on this matter since they feared [Page 945] any contact with Washington might lead to an increased interest by the Federal Trade Commission in certain phases of their operations.
- When Mr. Todd appeared at the June meeting of the International Committee, with the request of the American Iron and Steel Institute that he be accepted as the American representative on the Advisory Panel in place of Mr. Hughes, Sir John Campbell, the Chairman of the Committee, refused to accept the request, although he was willing enough to have Mr. Todd sit in on the discussions. Although the A. I. S. I. had made the original nomination of Mr. Hughes, Sir John maintained the position that the change should be made formally, and the matter was not properly cleared up until the third meeting of the Committee attended by Mr. Todd.
- The British consumers’ representative on the Advisory Panel is Sir William Firth, Chairman of the International Tin Plate Association. In the past he has not taken a great interest in the work of the Committee and has attended few meetings; he has, however, attended two of the three meetings at which Mr. Todd has been present. Mr. Todd has the very definite impression that Sir William Firth has rubbed members of the Committee the wrong way, particularly Sir John Campbell, and that as a result he has not succeeded in getting any great protection for the consumers. Mr. Todd’s policy has been to refrain from any clash with members of the Committee during these first few meetings, when he was not well informed regarding the position that American consumers wished to take. He has, however, taken occasion to develop friendships with members of the Committee outside of the meetings. The meetings themselves are held in a rather stiff and formal manner and he has definitely the feeling that the essential decisions are made before the Committee assembles.
- Mr. Todd has secured the greatest help from Mr. Lowinger, representative of Malaya on the Tin Committee and an official of the Colonial Office in London. Mr. Lowinger has a very objective view of the work of the Committee and has been quite willing to speak frankly of the various elements and personalities involved. He assisted Mr. Todd in securing information regarding the Committee’s work in the past and at his suggestion, Mr. Todd went to The Hague and secured statistics and other information from officials of the International Tin Research and Development Council, a body created by the International Committee.
- Up to the present time Mr. Todd has taken a position in the meetings of the International Committee only on the point that American consumers are primarily interested in stability of price, and, of course, price at a reasonable level. He emphasized the fact that the tin plate manufacturers operate on a long-term pricing system, usually announcing prices for a year’s period at a time; it would [Page 946] be a great advantage to them, therefore, if they were able to count upon relatively stable tin prices and did not have to discount the rather violent up and down swings that have occurred in tin prices in the past, even under the control of the International Committee.
- Mr. Todd discussed with members of the Committee, and with the statisticians at The Hague, the existing information regarding costs of tin mining. At first he was told that there was no full information regarding such costs and no basis of comparison as between different mines and areas. When Mr. Todd expressed the opinion that one of the first functions of an international committee should be to see that costing data were assembled in full and on a comparable basis in all areas, he was told that as a matter of fact producers do have a uniform cost accounting system. He has not as yet secured full information regarding these costs, however.
- Mr. Todd had gone over the memorandum prepared by the International Tin Research and Development Council, commenting upon the memorandum transmitted to the British and Dutch Governments by this Government, with reference to the operations of the Tin Committee and the proposed buffer stock scheme. In his opinion the reply of the Research Council was inadequate and unconvincing; he hoped that this Government would make a strong reply to it. It was arranged, therefore, that a preliminary draft of such a reply should be sent to Mr. Todd (care of Steel Export Association of America, 75 Wall Street, New York City) before his departure about November 2 so that he might offer his comments to the Department, either by mail or by telephone, before returning to Europe.
- Mr. Todd has been in England three or four years representing the Steel Export Association of America in its relation to the International Tin Plate Association (in which American tin plate exporters are directly represented) and the International Steel Cartel (with which American steel exporters have a working agreement). Up until this time only the two largest tin plate manufacturers have taken an interest in the work of the International Association, since they were the only ones ordinarily concerned with the export market. Mr. Todd has just succeeded in bringing all tin plate manufacturers into a direct relationship with the International Association, however, and he plans to return to this country every three or four months to keep in constant touch with the American manufacturers. He will expect to come to Washington or to communicate with the Department of State on each of these visits and he hopes that in the meantime we will keep Mr. Butterworth in the London Embassy informed so that he can keep in touch with Mr. Todd there, and also that, so far as possible, we will keep in close touch with Mr. Tower, Secretary of the American Iron and Steel Institute.
- Herbert Feis, Adviser on International Economic Affairs, Department of State.↩