561.311 F1 Advisory Committee/964: Telegram
The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 19—3 p.m.]
1720. With my permission Steere6 and Butterworth7 yesterday participated, on the invitation of officials of the British Food Ministry and the British Treasury, in a discussion of what might be described as British policy with respect to purchases of foodstuffs and feedstuffs. Considerable differences of opinion have obviously developed among the British as to the expediency of trying to play one country against another and of trying to drive hard bargains on prices without much regard for the future economic, political and financial implications; and those who counsel the adoption of a longer range view involving payment of fairer prices and having more regard for the normal sources of supply are for the moment at least gaining something of an upper hand. It is not unlikely that this is due in part to shipping considerations which are conspiring to make less attractive wheat shipments from Australia and Argentina and more attractive those from Canada and the United States.
While discussions were largely confined to generalities and did not give rise to any positive statement of the point of view of the British Government the Food Ministry officials indicated that they are authorizing Cairns (the Secretary of the Wheat Advisory Committee), who [Page 217] has accepted a temporary unpaid assignment in the Ministry, to undertake immediate informal discussions (see No. 1540, September 8, 7 p.m.8) with representatives on the Preparatory Wheat Committee of the four overseas exporting countries, regarding the desirability of resuming the wheat discussions which were adjourned on August 25. The implication is that the British Government would be prepared to cooperate more actively in reaching some form of international wheat agreement, in which its chief interest, for the time being at any rate, would be the maintenance of reasonable prices, but which, in the long run, would involve helpful cooperation toward avoidance of generally unhealthy developments. The Ministry of Food now regards the matter as an urgent one, and it is therefore hoped that we may have early instructions in the light of recent developments.
On the matter of the general discussion the Embassy represented two considerations:
- that it was highly desirable both from the British point of view and our own for the United States to have as complete a picture as possible of the purchasing plans of the British Government, that whereas information, say, about wheat or dried fruits or tobacco was in itself helpful from a management point of view it was really necessary to see the larger canvas in order to meet insofar as possible the situation which British purchases and non-purchases would entail.
- that it would be disadvantageous to Great Britain as well as the United States if immediate considerations are allowed to dictate a price policy for British purchases which would have the effect of depressing world prices and thus increasing the burden of debt in raw material producing countries which is already too heavy and still mounting.