740.00113 European War 1939/438: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

4155. Referring to your 3400, July 22, midnight. An informal meeting was held at the Treasury on Friday afternoon at which the proposed declaration reserving the right to declare invalid all transfers of property rights and interests in territory occupied or controlled by the Axis was discussed briefly. The meeting was presided over by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and was attended by the Finance Ministers of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, the Fighting French, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Yugoslavia, and by representatives of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa and of the appropriate authorities within the British Government. An observer from the Embassy attended and informed the meeting of the sympathetic interest with which the proposed declaration was being examined in Washington. The proposed text was presented for the first time at the meeting to the countries represented and detailed textual discussion was postponed to give the representatives an opportunity to examine the text and discuss it with their Governments. The proposal that a declaration be made was, however, received with great satisfaction and met with general approval in principle. The question of Russian participation was raised and the Chairman said that the meetings had hitherto been meetings of Finance Ministers, that he was ready to consider widening them if the representatives so desired but that in any case the Foreign Secretary1 had already undertaken to keep the Russian Ambassador2 fully informed.

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Since it was not desired to take up detailed textual discussion at this meeting the three points raised in your 3400, July 22, midnight, were discussed privately with Ronald,3 Keynes,4 Waley,5 and Fraser.6

As regards point 1 the British feel that the declaration should be a joint declaration made by those of the United Nations to whom it is a matter of practical concern and importance. They do not feel that it would be strengthened by the inclusion of countries not involved in such transfers of property rights and interests and which therefore would have no occasion to implement the declaration.

As regards point 2 the British have in mind a Government declaration and not a declaration by Finance Ministers. The matter was introduced at a meeting of Finance Ministers because this body was accustomed to meet and formed a convenient group for discussion of the matter.

As regards point 3 the British would be glad of any suggestions on wording and of any illustrations of the type of transaction which ought to be covered but would not be covered by the present wording. They are considering the substitution of the word “owned” for the word “situated” in the first sentence of the declaration.

Both the British and the Allied Governments, especially Belgium and Czechoslovakia, believe it to be of great political importance that such a declaration be made at this time. They feel that recent Axis military successes will give, if they have not already given, a strong impetus to additional transfers of property rights and interests in territories occupied or controlled by the Axis. For this reason they wish to avoid unduly detailed legalistic statements. They emphasize that existing laws differ considerably in different countries and that the implementation of the declaration may ultimately require new legislation in some countries. They wish to avoid postponement of a declaration pending a clarification and supplementation of the powers of each country to implement a general declaration along the lines proposed. Their immediate purpose is to issue a general declaration which will cast doubt upon all transfers of property rights and interests in Axis dominated territories and which can be used in broadcasts to such territories at a time when there is a tendency for such transfers to increase.

  1. Anthony Eden.
  2. Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky.
  3. Nigel Bruce Ronald, British Acting Assistant Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
  4. John Maynard Keynes, Economic Adviser to the British Government.
  5. Sigismund Waley, Under Secretary, British Treasury.
  6. Presumably Arthur Ronald Fraser, Assistant Secretary, British Board of Trade.