Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Acheson)

Mr. Pearson19 called at his request. He said that his Government had been in communication with the British Government regarding the proposed draft agreement relating to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Canada was particularly concerned with having representation upon the Policy Committee of that Administration. His Government had discussed with the British Government the question of whether that Committee should consist of four or seven members, and it was apprised of the views of the four powers upon this matter and the view of the recent British communication to us upon the subject. He wished to give me an outline of the Canadian Government’s position.

The Canadian Government was concerned with representation upon the Policy Committee because, in the first place, the movement of supplies for relief might well have a considerable bearing upon the economy of Canada. It would, for instance, be of great importance to Canada if their wheat and agricultural commodities were drawn extensively from this country or another, or in accordance with some principle or plan to be worked out. The Canadian Government would like to take an important part in the formulation of such decisions.

In the second place, Canada would be able to furnish a considerable amount of these materials, and its Government and people could take a larger place on the supplying side if they are represented in the body which made decisions.

[Page 865]

Finally as a political matter, it was of importance to the Canadian Government not to be excluded from the Committee on matters which so vitally concerned Canada.

I then explained to Mr. Pearson the proposed structure of the organization, pointing out that Canada would have a place upon the Council and that it would undoubtedly have a most important place on various committees of the Council. I then suggested to him the proposed Committee on Supplies as a substitute for membership on the Council. I also went over with Mr. Pearson the difficulties in the way of enlarging the Council. He agreed that in the political and military field Canada would not expect a position equal to the four great powers, but that in the economic field it was not necessary to have such an exclusive organization. He was interested in the idea of the Supply Committee, but did not believe that his Government would regard it as an adequate substitute for membership on the Policy Committee.

Mr. Pearson discussed at some length the proposed activities of the Policy Committee and the Council. He doubted whether the Council as a body would be very effective, drawing for this purpose upon his experience with the League of Nations. He thought that the group would be too large and not well enough informed to deal adequately with important matters. He stated that, if the Policy Committee were made up of representatives of the governments participating in it who were selected especially for this purpose and devoted the major part of their time to it, it might be an effective body. If, on the other hand, it was a committee of the ambassadors of the various powers who gave their attention to it from time to time, he doubted whether it would amount to much more than a vehicle for relaying questions from Washington to the various governments and entertaining their replies.

He raised the question as to whether it was necessary to have a Policy Committee, and suggested that the Director-General might select his staff from a sufficient number of nations vitally concerned so that they would feel that they had a place in the making of decisions. I stated that I felt quite sure that this would not be acceptable to the Russian Government and probably would not be acceptable to any of the others.

Mr. Pearson, in conclusion, said that the discussion had been most helpful to him, that he would discuss the matter further with Mr. Robertson20 and Mr. Wrong,21 and he would let me know any suggestions that they might have.

I am convinced that the Canadian Government feels strongly about this matter and has been pressing the British Government hard.

Dean Acheson
  1. Lester B. Pearson, Minister Counselor of the Canadian Legation.
  2. Norman A. Robertson, Canadian Under Secretary of State for External Affairs.
  3. Hume Wrong, Canadian Assistant Under Secretary of State for External Affairs.