Memorandum by the Assistant Legal Adviser for Economic Affairs (Rubin) to the Legal Adviser (Gross)

In a meeting in Mr. Lovett’s office yesterday, it was decided, on the recommendation of Mr. Clayton, that the Department would reverse its previous stand, and that we would put the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) into effect with respect to Czechoslovakia on April 20 or 21.

Considerations which motivated Mr. Clayton’s recommendation were largely:

The strong opposition of five out of seven of the GATT signatories;
The feeling of certain of the GATT signatories that if we withdrew application vis-à-vis Czechoslovakia, we would in effect legally be withdrawing from the Agreement;
The feeling that opposition on the Hill will come very largely from those persons who would in any case be opposed to any trade agreement with Czechoslovakia;
The fact that it would be foolish to refuse to apply GATT to Czechoslovakia, but to allow Czechoslovakia to get its benefits indirectly through the most-favored-nation clause, and that, therefore, refusal to apply GATT to Czechoslovakia would necessarily imply denunciation of most-favored-nation treatment for Czechoslovakia;
That withdrawal of m-f-n treatment for Czechoslovakia would necessarily mean denunciation of our commercial convention with Russia and withdrawal of m-f-n treatment from the entire iron-curtain area; and
That relations between the US and the USSR were so strained at present that it was unwise to subject them to further unnecessary strain in a manner which would irritate, but not injure.

Mr. Lovett agreed with this recommendation and steps are to be taken to sound out the President and Members of Congress, to notify the Secretary and to discuss the matter with the Department of Commerce, and to prepare the Proclamation.1 I have discussed the Proclamation with Walter Hollis,2 who is preparing a draft. Hollis is to prepare the draft in such a way that it proclaims changes made in GATT at Havana and certain minor rectifications of GATT or of our previous proclamations, so that the Czech question becomes merely one part of a general proclamation.

It should be noted that proclaiming with respect to Czechoslovakia on April 21 will involve some violation on our part, since we are actually obligated to give effect to the concessions on that day and at least ten days or two weeks’ notice will be required. However, such a violation seems very unimportant.

Seymour J. Rubin
  1. A memorandum of conversation covering this meeting, not printed, indicates that Mr. Lovett made suggestions, concurred in by those present, in which the Department would adopt a “line of argument” which focussed on point 6 above and on the Berlin question where the United States position was based on the necessity of living up to international agreements; “our failure to do so in the Czech Agreement would make our position less strong there.” (611.60F31/4–1448)
  2. Sometime officer in the Division of Commercial Policy and in the Office of the Legal Adviser.