Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Clayton) to the Secretary of State

In your foreword to the Trade Proposals last December you urged all countries to prepare immediately for a World Conference to meet “not later than the summer of 1946.” On that schedule, we said that trade agreement negotiations would start in March 1946. They have now been postponed to September. The considerations for holding to this date are: [Page 1312]

Public opinion is prepared for action. We have enlisted the enthusiastic support of business, farm, labor, church, peace, and women’s organizations for the Trade Agreements renewal, the British loan, and the Trade Proposals mainly on the ground that we planned to expand world trade. If we delay further, our friends will be discouraged and even resentful and we may lose their strong backing.
We have delivered our Proposals to all other governments. We have persuaded Britain, France, and Belgium publicly to endorse them. On our urging, the Economic and Social Council has voted unanimously to call the World Conference to meet “in the latter part of 1946.” Fourteen countries have accepted our invitation to meet for tariff negotiations and, in accordance with our suggestions, are actively preparing for them. If we delay now, this momentum will be lost, other countries will question our intentions, they will doubt that they can depend on us to carry through, and we may forfeit our leadership in trade policy.
The enlarged trade agreements authority will be a year old in June. If we put off announcement of negotiations until November, we cannot meet to negotiate until March 1947, a full year from the date we first suggested and almost two years after the renewal of the Act. That meeting will take several months. The new agreements, the World Conference, and the submission of the resulting World Trade Charter for ratification will therefore come dangerously close to the next renewal of the Trade Agreements Act and to the election of 1948.
Other countries are now deciding on trade policy. Pressures for increased barriers to American trade are strong. Our active sponsorship of the Proposals has temporarily restrained a new flood of trade restrictions abroad. If we delay further, the dam may break. We run the risk of losing all of the concessions we have sought.