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

Mr. Pearson, who called at his request to discuss decentralized export control procedure, stayed after our conference with the Canadian [Page 882] Commercial Attaché on that subject to discuss the United Nations Relief Organization draft. He told me that yesterday the War Cabinet had met to discuss the recent changes in the draft, creating a Supply Committee on which Canada could play an important part. The Canadian Government had been informed of these changes by the British Embassy. The War Cabinet decided that these changes were not sufficient to alter its prior decision, and still adhered to the view that Canada could not participate unless it had a more prominent part on what he termed the “directorate” of the administration. He said that he thought the underlying reason for the War Cabinet’s decision was its belief that the form that this organization took would furnish a pattern for further economic organizations and that Canada must insist upon having a larger part or else it would be excluded from such participation on all other similar organizations.

I explained to Mr. Pearson that I thought the War Cabinet was in error in believing that the organization of the relief administration would furnish a pattern. This organization I thought was necessarily directed to the particular problems of relief. I pointed out that the form of organization in the draft wheat agreement34 was quite different and that I was sure that if any organizations were considered in the financial fields, they would be still different. In other words, each had been adapted to the particular problems which it was to meet, and function which it was to perform.

I explained further that I thought the War Cabinet was attaching undue importance to the Policy Committee in the relief organization. It seems to me that, aside from the council where overall matters of policy would be decided, the chief centers of gravity would be the Director General, who would have to exercise large powers in the field of managing operations, the Supply Committee, which would be of the greatest importance since the administration could not function without materials to distribute, and the regional committees, where the recipients of relief would have an opportunity to formulate their views upon the part which they wished to play and in the principles which they thought should apply.

After some discussion of this matter, Mr. Pearson said that he thought that it would be most important at an appropriate moment if some official of this Government fully conversant with the proposed organization and with the problems which had attended the draft, could go to Ottawa and discuss the matter fully with the Prime Minister. He said that necessarily the Prime Minister’s knowledge of this subject was slight and that it might well be that, upon full presentation [Page 883] and discussion of ail the facets of the problem, he might modify his view.

I then asked Mr. Pearson where he thought we should be if the Canadian Government adhered to its view. I pointed out that, as he knew, the Russian and Chinese Governments held equally strong views and that a relief organization without the participation of those two Governments would be fatally defective, just as it would be immeasurably handicapped if it failed to procure the participation of the Canadian Government. The result might be to produce great suffering on the part of people for whom relief might be delayed. Mr. Pearson was not willing to commit himself in answer to my question, but he was not prepared to say that the Canadian Government would push its position of actually refusing to join the proposed relief organization. He hoped that the discussion with the Prime Minister, referred to above, might furnish a method of solving the difficulties.

Dean Acheson
  1. For correspondence concerning the draft wheat agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. i, pp. 501 ff.