840.50/3581: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

1973. Personal for the Acting Secretary. The Prime Minister’s reply to the President’s letter on economic machinery has been held up through differences of view among civil service and ministerial advisors.

One view has been that the formulation of the list of subjects to be covered and the question of an overall economic body and of a steering body should be dealt with at a future United States-British-Soviet discussion in Washington. A second view has been that direct discussion on the subjects to be covered should be started at once between the Foreign Office and the State Department and should be brought to a head during your visit here.

Ronald believes that the second of these views of procedure (see also Embassy’s 1816, of March 5, 9 p.m.) will probably be adopted. He again expressed a personal view that decisions on the subject matter of economic negotiations should be reached before proceeding to the question of an international steering committee.

In a further conversation Ronald gave indications of an important modification of some of his past views. After expressing agreement on the need for more rapid progress on international economic discussions he suggested that a change from the technique of preliminary informal discussions at the technical level to the technique adopted at the Hot Springs Conference might at this stage produce more rapid advance. Such a procedure would aim at international agreement on general principles followed by continuing work on detailed measures. It would of course be necessary that the countries chiefly concerned should follow up the agreement on principles by putting their best technicians at once into the work of preparing detailed measures [Page 24] to implement such principles. Departments and Ministers would be obliged to reach policy decisions on principles to meet the deadline of conference dates.

This modification in Ronald’s attitude seems to be due in part at least to difficulties in getting the Departments and Ministers, particularly Ministers, to reach policy decisions on a number of important international economic matters. These difficulties result mainly from the following: (1) Insufficient thought has been given by Ministers to many of these matters and by the Departments to some of them. (2) There are growing internal difficulties in the coalition Government with respect to the electoral truce and to future political arrangements. On the relation of the second point to future economic discussions a separate message will follow shortly in the series on Article VII questions.

This message should have minimum circulation to protect Embassy’s contacts here.