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

Participants: Mr. Jebb42 and Mr. Strang43 of the British Foreign Office
Mr. Acheson

Mr. Jebb and Mr. Strang called at Mr. Eden’s44 request. Mr. Eden spoke to me last night about his forthcoming visit to Ottawa, saying that he would doubtless have to take up the question of Canada’s position [Page 896] in the relief organization, and asked me if I would review the situation with Mr. Jebb and Mr. Strang so that he might be sure that he had our views directly.

I reviewed with the two gentlemen the history of the discussions and the various attitudes taken from time to time by the British Government, as well as the attitude of the Russian and Chinese Governments. We went over the communications from the Canadian Government, with which they were in general familiar. A summary of the various points made is as follows:

1. Canada’s position in the matter is based, as explained by her representatives, not primarily upon concern as to her material interests, but reflects her concern that upon the first international organization to be created in the economic field she should have a leading role, both because of the political importance in Canada and because it may form a pattern for future organizations.

So far as the first consideration is concerned, we have attempted to meet this by creating the Supplies Committee and are willing to assure Canada the leading role on this Committee. The Chairman of the Committee will sit with the Central Committee in all discussions of supplies. This virtually means all discussions. With skillful handling this can be shown to be, as it is in fact, a most important role accorded Canada.

So far as the second consideration is concerned, it seems extremely unlikely that the relief organization will furnish a pattern. An examination of the draft wheat agreement shows an entirely different organization, upon which Canada has a leading role. Various plans which have been discussed in the financial field indicate that the position in such an organization will reflect financial contribution. It therefore appears that international organizations are likely to be created ad hoc and the Canadian fear of the establishment of a pattern seems unfounded.

Mr. Jebb asked whether the relief organization could not also be created so as to give prominent position according to contribution. I said that this had been discussed when Sir Frederick Leith-Ross was here, and I felt that upon reflection he would see that such an organization would be even less acceptable to the small nations than the British feared that the present one would be. I also doubted whether the British Government would wish to propose such an organization. He acquiesced in both of these views.

Mr. Jebb also asked me whether we would be willing, if it appeared to be useful, to put in memorandum form our views that the relief organization would not furnish the pattern for future organizations along the lines outlined above. I said that I saw no reason why we could not do this, since it appeared to be clearly the fact. We would, of course, have to consider the request when it was made.

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2. I then explained the difficulties of picking out the European country to be a member of the Central Committee upon the assumption that a larger number than four should be provided and also the possibility that the number could not be kept within any bounds hitherto mentioned.

3. I explained the importance which the Soviet and Chinese Governments attached to the smaller Central Committee and some of the reasons for this.

4. Mr. Jebb referred to the possibility of my going to Ottawa to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister. I said that this would have to be taken up with the Secretary, but that, before he was asked to decide the matter, I thought it would be most helpful to get a report from Mr. Jebb of Mr. Eden’s talks in Ottawa. He said that he would arrange to give us this through Mr. Noel Hall.

5. I then stressed the great importance of obtaining general agreement upon the draft, since otherwise the institution of the relief organization might be indefinitely postponed and the furnishing of relief seriously prejudiced.

Dean Acheson
  1. Hubert M. G. Jebb, Head of the Economic and Reconstruction Department of the British Foreign Office.
  2. William Strang, Acting Assistant Under-Secretary of State in the British Foreign Office.
  3. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; for correspondence regarding Mr. Eden’s visit to Washington during March 1943, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.