Editorial Note

The First Session of the Preparatory Committee of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment met in London from October 15 to November 26, 1946. At that meeting the United States draft Charter for an International Trade Organization was revised and an attempt was made to reach agreement on a set of principles which all could accept. Where there was an identity of view, the articles of the Charter were assembled in a revised draft; where differences, however, could not be reconciled, the conference report simply described the different views that had been advanced.2 The First Session laid the groundwork for an interim drafting committee, which met in New York City in January 1947, and improved the language of those articles where substantial agreement had been reached. The First Session delegates selected April 8, 1947, as the date for convening the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee.

During the early part of 1947, considerable discussion took place among representatives of the United States, Great Britain, and France as to how the projected multilateral negotiations on tariffs could best be accomplished. All agreed that because the United States was prepared to provide a number of negotiating groups, the talks could be speeded up. Planning also involved deciding how delegations would be staffed to handle various problems, some of which were matters of policy formulation, while others involved special technical competence. The United States urged that the tariff and Charter negotiations take place simultaneously, but the British preferred that the former be started at least a month before the latter. Both countries agreed that the principal policy officers ought to remain at Geneva throughout the entire conference, to speed decisions.

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To insure that the tariff negotiation sessions got off to a quick start, the United States on November 9, 1946, issued a list of items on which it would be willing to make concessions (Department of State Publication 2672, Commercial Policy Series 96). No other nation followed this exact procedure, but each submitted special lists, requesting other countries to lower their tariffs a given percentage on specified items. Once received, the requests were to be studied and acted upon so as to form the basis for negotiations. The United States anticipated that it might receive requests for concessions on items not included on its November 9 list, and decided that such matters were to be considered by the Interdepartmental Trade Agreements Committee, which would make recommendations to President Truman.

Another question which arose in this preparatory period was that of briefing “non-nuclear” countries (those not having representatives on the preparatory committee) about the Charter. The United States and the United Kingdom agreed that the United Nations Secretariat should first send out appropriate materials prepared during the London meeting, following which the United States or the United Kingdom diplomatic mission would offer its services to these governments in order to answer questions or explain obscurities. Latin American Governments were to be briefed by the United States missions, and the European Governments by the British missions. The remaining countries were either to be assigned to one or the other, or both the United States and the United Kingdom were cooperatively to provide the briefing.

In this pre-conference stage, one of the issues which regularly emerged was whether official delegations might be accompanied by representatives of private interests. The United States at first opposed such representatives, but because other nations had made certain commitments to their private interests, subsequently accepted the view that private representatives might be given such status as would prevent their admittance to closed sessions. Australia, for example, arranged that representatives of private interests were to be appointed as non-official advisors and were not included in the delegation.

Besides the preparations and discussions held with other nations, the Department of State had to inform the American public and take cognizance of diverse views prior to the conference. On January 2, 1947, the Department therefore announced that a series of informal hearings on the proposed International Trade Organization would take place so that all interested persons and groups might have an opportunity to present their views. (Department of State Bulletin, January 12, 1947, page 686) Conducted under the auspices of the Executive Committee on Economic Foreign Policy (made up of representatives of the Departments of State, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor [Page 911] and the United States Tariff Commission, all tinder the chairmanship of Assistant Secretary of State Thorp), the hearings took place between February 24 and March 16, and the report on the hearings is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, April 26, 1947, pages 721 ff.

During this period of preparation, the Administration ordered some changes in the way new tariff schedules would be handled. The Tariff Commission was now given the responsibility for applying escape clauses, if such protection seemed necessary. The text of the statement by Senators Vandenberg and Millikin, which prompted this re-examination of domestic procedures, may be found in the Department’s “Wireless Bulletin,” February 7, 1947. President Truman’s executive order and press statement announcing these changes is printed in the Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman: 1947 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1963), pages 151–152.

  1. Report of the First Session of the Preparatory Committee of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment (United Nations Doc. E/PC/T/33) (London, 1946).