Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Commercial Policy (Willoughby)1

top secret

Subject: Conversations between the President and Prime Minister St. Laurent:2 Further U.S.-Canadian Tariff Negotiations

The following is suggested for inclusion in the briefing memo3 which you are preparing for the President:

The Prime Minister may suggest to you the possibility of entering into tariff negotiations to expand trade between Canada and the U.S.

During the past year exhaustive consideration has been given by commercial policy experts in the Department and their counterparts in the Canadian Government to the possibilities of entering into a very comprehensive trade arrangement looking to the substantial elimination of tariff barriers between the U.S. and Canada. Owing to possible repercussions on their elections, which probably will be held next summer, the Canadians have insisted that the discussions be classified top secret and restricted to exploratory conversations between small groups of technical experts. The Department has been told recently that the Canadian Government cannot undertake negotiation of such a comprehensive proposal prior to their elections, but that they may suggest a more limited one.

The Department believes that a very comprehensive plan to bring the two countries together economically might catch the imagination of the general public in the U.S. and assure a favorable reception on grounds of security and other general interest whereas a limited trade arrangement would not offer important advantages and would arouse strong opposition, specially among American farmers fearing competition. [Page 394] Until it becomes clear whether it will be feasible to negotiate, after the Canadian elections, a far-reaching arrangement, it is believed that we should not undertake limited tariff negotiations.

It is recommended that you do not raise the question of tariff negotiations. If the subject is brought up by Mr. St. Laurent, the Department recommends that you express merely a general desire to take any practicable action to promote close economic relations between our two countries and a willingness to explore any proposals by Canada.

  1. Addressed to the Chief and Assistant Chief of the Division of British Commonwealth Affairs, Livingston L. Satterthwaite and William P. Snow respectively.
  2. Louis Stephen St. Laurent, Prime Minister of Canada.
  3. Not found in Department of State files.