Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Trade Agreements (Hawkins)
Baron de Gruben called in connection with certain difficulties which have arisen in connection with the early announcement of the negotiation of a revised trade agreement. He said his Government is very reluctant to agree to limiting the discussions of concessions by this country to the items in a published list until it has had opportunity to contact all of the Belgian producers who might be interested in having items included in the list, and that the Belgian Government probably would not be able to complete its investigation until September. Baron de Gruben stated that he realized the objections to such a delay and also that his Government apparently does not fully understand our procedure even yet, nor apparently realize that the proposed published list prepared by us in all probability covers every item of any consequence at all in which Belgium might conceivably have an interest. In order to assist his Government in reaching an early conclusion as to what it wants published, Baron de Gruben asked if we could furnish him detailed statistics on the items imported from Belgium. I gave him the large list of products considered by the Trade Agreements Committee in formulating the list for publication which includes detailed statistics and information, but not the comments on the items which were prepared for the use of the Trade Agreements Committee. Baron de Gruben asked when I thought we ought to get out the announcement and I told him that the sooner we could get it out the [Page 427] better, since it is desirable from our point of view not to have the negotiations extend over into the next calendar year. I said that I had hoped that we could get the announcement out by August first.
In response to his request for my suggestions as to what further considerations he should advance to his Government in support of going ahead with the announcement promptly on the basis of our list, I said that the data I had just furnished him would seem to cover all items of any consequence whatever in the trade, and that if his Government wanted any of these items added to the list formulated by us, I would be glad to present these requests to the Trade Agreements Committee. In any event, if it should turn out that the Belgian investigations between now and the time when negotiations were actively undertaken revealed some product not in the published list, it is possible under our procedure to issue a supplementary announcement. However, I pointed out that in such a contingency, the negotiations would be delayed somewhat and, therefore, it would not be worthwhile from the standpoint of either Government to issue a supplementary announcement unless there had been some oversight involving an item of real importance. This latter contingency is a very unlikely one in view of the comprehensive nature of the published list and of the completeness of the list from which the published items are taken. Baron de Gruben said that he fully understood and appreciated all of this.
He then went on to a different phase of the subject, and handed me the attached list of products9 in respect of which he said his Government would like an indication of what we are likely to ask the Belgian Government in the way of concessions. He said his Government wanted to gauge what it would be called upon to grant in order to determine how much it would be justified in asking from us. I told Baron de Gruben that I could not quite see the necessity of this since his Government could determine after our hearings and after we had gotten into definitive negotiations how much it was justified in asking of us in the light of what we definitely requested of it. I also pointed out that to indicate at this stage the nature of the concessions we are likely to ask presents difficulties from a procedural standpoint since we normally do not formulate our requests until after full study and after the hearings have been completed and we have before us all the evidence submitted by private interests. I said that, of course, we do formulate tentative ideas of what we might ask for on various products of particular interest, but that to give such tentative indications to his Government at this stage might cause his Government to embark upon the negotiations on assumptions which would turn out to be unfounded when we had carefully examined the question [Page 428] of what requests we should make in the light of information obtained from the trade; and for this reason, I did not think it feasible to give his Government the indications referred to. He said he fully understood these points, but that he had been asked by his Government to obtain this information and hoped that we would consider it further.
- Not printed.↩