Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Commercial Policy (Brown)

Participants: The President
Mr. Acheson
Mr. Clayton
Mr. Brown

We called upon the President to ask his approval of the recommendations of the Trade Agreements Committee for concessions to be requested of and offered to the other nations at Geneva.

Mr. Acheson stated that the work of conducting the public hearings and preparing the recommendations had been difficult and well done, and that the business community seemed to be well satisfied with the way in which the public hearings had been handled. The President stated that he felt that the job had been done “better than ever before”, and that he had not heard a single complaint about the way in which the public hearings were conducted. He stated that he was both surprised and pleased at this fact.

Mr. Brown then explained to the President the coverage of the recommendations as to concessions that we were suggesting that we offer, [Page 914] and called his attention specifically to each of the items set forth in the memorandum sent to the President on April 2, 1947, which were believed to be politically significant, explaining the concession offered and indicating the objections that might be raised. In each case in which a dissent was involved, the President’s attention was specifically called to that dissent and the main grounds for it and the majority recommendation were summarized. In each case, the President said that he felt the majority position was reasonable. He had specific comments to make on the following items.

Zinc: The President said he felt it most important that we open up new sources of zinc outside the United States. He said we could not possibly fight another war on the resources we had in the country. He said he knew all about the political outcry that would ensue from a reduction in the duty, but that he felt the national interest demanded increased imports. He said he had refused to see a delegation from Missouri which had wished to protest to him against a reduction in the duty.

Woolen textiles: The President said he felt the recommendation was reasonable, and that it was important that we import more woolen textiles in order to provide additional dollar exchange for the British. He said he felt that the concession recommended was a very sensible one.

Cotton textiles: The President said he did not feel the concession recommended would hurt anyone, and referred to the unprecedented profits currently being made by textile concerns in the United States.

Rubber and tin: It was explained to the President that the proposed binding would preclude the use of the tariff as a means of protecting the domestic synthetic rubber industry or of protecting the Texas City tin smelter. The President said that the tariff was no way to afford such protection; it should be done by means of a subsidy.

It was explained to the President that the Department of Agriculture had dissented from the recommendations to offer concessions on agricultural products of which we had an export surplus and for which we were asking concessions from other countries. The President said that it would be unreasonable for us not to offer concessions in such cases.

It was pointed out that adoption of the recommendations would undoubtedly give rise to vociferous political protests from many well organized and powerful special interests throughout the country. The President said, “I am ready for it”.

It was further explained to the President that it might be necessary to come back to him as a result of the Geneva negotiations and ask his approval for some further tariff concessions. The President stated that he was fully back of the conference, and would be glad to consider further action, if necessary.

Mr. Clayton explained that we were offering only a binding on wool, because of the present state of the domestic wool industry and [Page 915] the recognition of its position contained in the President’s letter of March 12, 1946, to Senator O’Mahoney,1 but that this item would be of crucial importance at the Geneva conference and that’ we might have to make further recommendations to him on this commodity. The President indicated his willingness to consider such recommendations.

In conclusion, the President gave his approval to the recommendations made by the Trade Agreements Committee, stating that he felt the job of preparing for the tariff negotiations had been well done, and he wished the negotiators all success and assured them of his full support.

  1. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman: 1946 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1962), pp. 150–153. The letter was dated March 11 and released March 12.