840.50/5–1845: Telegram

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

5007. Hawkins and Penrose have discussed with Liesching, Eady, Robbins, Fergusson, Enfield97 and Shackle the procedures that might be followed in preparation for the proposed international conference on trade and employment.

With the object of getting the benefit of UK thinking on the subject, Hawkins outlined orally the suggested procedure in his memorandum to Clayton,98 indicating that it represented only his personal views. UK officials freely expressed their personal views on the suggestions in a detailed discussion.
UK officials have apparently given considerable thought to the subject. They are generally favorable to the broad sequence of events set out in the Hawkins memorandum. However, they raised a number [Page 48] of points concerning the relation of this suggested sequence to future UK political events, to the detailed amplification of procedures to be followed between the suggested US publication of an outline of principles and the holding of an international conference, and to the forms of consultation with other countries prior to the international conference.
Regarding UK political events, they were concerned about the period between the beginning of discussions with Congressional leaders and the publication of an outline of principles of trade and employment. During this period, they said, “leakages” are likely to occur in some form. Such leakages are likely to be partial, vague and subject to journalistic exaggeration. If they occurred on the eve of the UK election, they might be dragged into UK politics and candidates might be pressed to state their views on the issues raised and in reply tend to make premature individual commitments on particular points of trade policy. Robbins and Eady think that much would depend on the subjects of leakages; reactions would differ on different aspects of trade policy.
As regards UK politics, the most favorable circumstances would arise if the general election took place early, for example, at the beginning of July, and if the stage of publicity on trade policy therefore began after the election. Eady expressed the hope that there would be the shortest possible interval between the confidential discussions with Congressional leaders and the disclosure of the plan to the public.
UK officials raised a number of points concerning the procedure to be followed between publication of US official statement of principle and the beginning of the international conference. They agreed that preliminary informal agreement among “key” countries should be obtained, covering US, UK, France and USSR (see point f of memorandum). They consider that initial US unilateral sponsorship is the most advantageous procedure but suggest that after the US position has been formulated and announced the UK might announce its acceptance during the period before the conference meets. As regards other than the “key” countries mentioned, the UK officials agreed that discussions with them before the conference would probably consist in explanations and not in attempt to secure detailed agreement.
More generally UK officials summarized their ideas of international procedure approximately as follows: First, a unilateral statement of principles by US, perhaps followed soon by an expression of UK approval, and then measures to obtain agreement of key countries and to answer inquiries of other countries.
The discussion was confined entirely to questions of procedure (it is felt here that it is desirable as a first step to reach agreement on this subject).
  1. Ralph R. Enfield, Chief Economic Adviser to the British Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
  2. Reference presumably is to a memorandum dated April 30, of which no copy has been found in Department files. Mr. Hawkins gave this date for a memorandum by him on the subject in question in his despatch 23525, June 8, from London (560.AL/6–845). He had been in Washington from April 14 to May 2. Although the memorandum of April 30 has not been found, Mr. Hawkins’ views on procedure in connection with the proposed conference on trade and employment were embodied in Document SC–115, approved by the Secretary of State’s Staff Committee on May 18 (Minutes, Lot 122, Box 13147). This Staff Committee document embodied the recommendations that: (a) during July, the Executive Committee on Economic Foreign Policy consider final proposals setting forth the U.S. position in the broad area of international trade; (b) the thoughts of the United Kingdom and other countries on the subject, prior to July 1, be sought and considered in formulating U.S. policies; (c) the final recommendations of the ECEFP be submitted for approval to the Secretary of State and the President, and discussed with Congressional leaders; (d) the proposals then be submitted confidentially to the British Government for general but not necessarily specific, acquiescence; (e) following this, the proposals be sent to other governments for their consideration and published for the benefit of Congress and the public; (f) finally, the proposals, as modified—if necessary—by the above steps, be agreed upon with the United Kingdom, the British Dominions, France, and the Soviet Union, after which a general international conference be called.