Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Woodbury Willoughby of the Division of Commercial Policy and Agreements

Participants: Mr. W. G. Hayter, First Secretary, British Embassy
Mr. E. Keith Jopson, Commercial Secretary, British Embassy
Mr. Hornbeck, PA/H
Mr. Hamilton, FE
Mr. Willoughby, TA

On April 22 and again on May 3 Mr. Jopson, speaking informally over the phone to Mr. Hawkins (TA),4 inquired whether the United States was disposed to negotiate, at the present time, a new commercial treaty with China. He indicated that the British Government would not view favorably a proposal by the Chinese Government to open negotiations at the present time and hoped that the United States concurred in this view. Mr. Jopson’s inquiry was discussed with Mr. Hornbeck and Mr. Hamilton and arrangements were made for Mr. Jopson and Mr. Hayter to call at the Department on May 6 to discuss the matter.

Mr. Jopson opened the conversation by explaining that Dr. T. V. Soong, before leaving Chungking last February, had mentioned to the British Ambassador there the possibility of beginning work on a Treaty of Commerce between China and Great Britain and that the subject had been brought up in such a way that the Ambassador interpreted it not as a formal proposal but as a feeler designed to ascertain the attitude of the British Government. Mr. Jopson and Mr. Hayter explained that their Government questioned the advisability of beginning negotiations because the future, especially the post-war settlement, was so uncertain. They raised a question as to whether a commercial treaty negotiated in the near future might not later be found to conflict with the operation of some international organization set up under the auspices of the United Nations as, for example, an organization designed to promote international currency stabilization. They suggested that some conflict might develop with arrangements implementing the Atlantic Charter5 and United Nations Declaration6 and Article VII of the Lend-Lease Agreements.7

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Mr. Hamilton recounted the conversations, in so far as they related to the proposed treaty, between officers of the Department and Dr. Soong since his return from Chungking and a copy of the attached typed statement8 was handed to Mr. Jopson and Mr. Hayter. It was explained that the statement was informal and should be considered in no sense a communication to the British Government.

Mr. Jopson and Mr. Hayter were told that the Department feels that there might be considerable advantages to proceeding with the negotiation of a new commercial treaty before the end of the war; that the commercial provisions of any such treaty that we would negotiate would be general in nature and would be similar to the commercial provisions of analogous treaties with other countries; and that we do not perceive how the treaty would conflict with any United Nations organization or policies implementing the Atlantic Charter or Lend-Lease Agreements. It was pointed out that the preliminary work leading up to negotiations, as well as the negotiations themselves, could be expected to take a long time. It was, however, made clear that representatives of the Department have indicated to Dr. Soong a general willingness to proceed in the direction of the negotiation of a new treaty and that we do not expect to “stall” or otherwise delay unnecessarily conclusion of the proposed treaty.

W[oodbury] W[illoughby]
  1. Harry Hawkins, Chief of the Division of Commercial Policy and Agreements.
  2. Joint declaration by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, August 14, 1941; Department of State Bulletin, August 16, 1941, p. 125, or 55 Stat. 1603.
  3. Signed January 1, 1942, Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 236, or 55 Stat. 1600.
  4. For text of agreement with China, signed at Washington, June 2, 1942, see 56 Stat. 1494.
  5. Supra.