The British Ambassador (Halifax) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Acheson)

Dear Mr. Acheson: I reported to His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom our talks, together with the Ambassadors of Russia and China, about the composition of the Policy Committee of the proposed United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency.

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I have now had the carefully considered reply of my Government, which I am sending to you for your consideration and for communication, if you think well, to the Russian and Chinese Ambassadors.18 My Government is, as you know, anxious to proceed as quickly as possible with the setting up of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency. Nevertheless, it finds itself unable to agree to a draft agreement to be submitted to the other United Nations which, in the British Government’s opinion, is not likely to find acceptance either by the European Allies or by the principal suppliers. The cordial collaboration of both these groups of governments is, in the opinion of the British Government, essential to the success of the whole scheme.

His Majesty’s Government, after giving much thought to the matter, have come to the conclusion that, while it is almost inevitable that the ultimate control of post war military and political arrangements will tend to lie in the hands of the four great powers, there is in their view no reason to exclude participation of the other powers in organisations set up to deal with particular economic problems in which they are directly concerned. In practice such organisations will only work successfully in the economic field if they secure the willing and full cooperation of the other interested parties. This is particularly the case in the matter now under consideration since the policies of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency must have a great influence on the economic conditions both in supplying countries and in Europe generally.

Though individually the Governments of the European Allied countries cannot claim to be on a level with the Great Powers, their aggregate population amounts to 133,000,000 and their aggregate trade, measured by the average of the immediate pre-war years, was greater than that of either the United Kingdom or the United States. Their Governments can hardly be expected to agree that decisions, vitally affecting the economies of their countries, should be settled by a committee on which they have no representation. Indeed, if they were to agree to such an arrangement their decision might well be repudiated by the peoples of their countries when finally liberated.

While it may be argued that the European allies will be the recipients of relief rather than contributors, this cannot be regarded as a disqualification for membership of the directing committee, and it has to be appreciated that many of these allies will in fact be able to make important contributions to the provision of relief. Thus, Norway and Holland will be able to assist with shipping, and Holland and France with supplies, once their Colonial Empires have been recovered. Belgium, in any case, has important resources in the Congo.

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While there may be difficulties in arranging the exact form of representation, His Majesty’s Government believe that agreement can be reached on this. They consider that the important thing is to make provision for some form of representation, so as to meet the main complaint of the minor powers and to secure a wide measure of cooperation, without which the successful working of the organisation will be impossible. With this object in view they believe that it is necessary that the Policy Committee shall consist of seven powers, one representing the European Allies, and two of the principal suppliers, one of which should clearly be Canada.

I am always at your disposal to discuss this and other outstanding points with you and the Russian and Chinese Ambassadors. I hope that before very long you will be able to submit a draft, with which we are all in agreement, to the United Nations Governments.

Yours sincerely,

  1. The letter was transmitted by the Secretary of State to the Chinese and Soviet Ambassadors on January 27.