The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of Commerce (Harriman)1


Dear Averell: As you were aware, this Department has given very careful study to the proposals embodied in the paper which you laid before the National Security Council on the subject of trade between this country and Europe.2

As a result of these studies we have come to the conclusion that it would be preferable from the standpoint of our foreign relations as a whole, to do what we can to curtail undesirable exports to the Soviet sphere by adding items to the list of those which are under control for the world at large.

We understand from conversations with officials of the Department of Commerce that there are objections to this procedure in your Department on account of the undue burden which it would impose upon the business community and upon the Government. We would be glad to have further conversations at the working level as to the ways in which this objection could be overcome.

If, however, you still feel that this procedure is unfeasible and would not duly protect national interests, then we would prefer to adopt, of the various alternative solutions, substantially the one outlined in the paper which you submitted to the National Security Council, subject to certain minor modifications. These modifications would be:

We would wish that arrangements might be made under which this Department could share actively in the decisions involved in controlling shipments to Europe;
While we feel that those exercising the controls should be authorized to demand justification of requirements in cases where this appears desirable, we do not feel that this should be made mandatory upon them.

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Should it be decided to place all shipments to Europe under control, the way in which this decision is presented to our public and to the world at large will have great importance. I enclose, as a suggestion for the way in which this might be approached, a draft3 which has been prepared in this Department. We would be glad to have your reactions to this before any final step is taken along these lines.

Very sincerely yours,

Robert A. Lovett
  1. George Kennan, Director, Policy Planning Staff, sent a copy of this letter to Rear Adm. Sidney W. Souers, Executive Secretary, National Security Council, under cover of the following letter dated December 11, 1947:

    “I understand that the proposal of the Secretary of Commerce for the control of exports to the USSR and Eastern Europe has been placed on the agenda of the National Security Council meeting scheduled for December 17, 1947.

    “For the information of the members of the National Security Council I am enclosing a copy of a letter of December 8, 1947, together with a copy of its enclosure, from the Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of Commerce on the subject of trade between this country and Europe. The contents of these documents represent the current, although not necessarily the final, views of the Department of State on the matter.” (661.119/12–847)

  2. For Secretary Harriman’s paper under reference here, see Attachment B to Policy Planning Staff paper PPS/17, November 26, 1947, p. 506.
  3. The draft under reference here is the same as the statement included as Attachment C to Policy Planning Staff paper PPS/17, p. 507.