International Trade Files, Lot 57D284, Box 112

Position Paper for the United States Delegation to the Fifth Session of the Contracting Parties to GATT 1



Information on Quantitative Restrictions on Exports

the problem

At the Fourth Session, the conclusion was reached by the Contracting Parties that it would be desirable to obtain more systematic and comprehensive information on the subject of quantitative restrictions on exports.

The Secretariat has placed the item on the agenda for the Fifth Session, suggesting that it “might be instructed to (a) request contracting parties to supply information and documentation on quantitative restrictions currently in force, including copies of laws and administrative decrees, etc., and (b) prepare a statement on the application of export restrictions for the consideration of the Contracting Parties at their Sixth Session.”


The United States should support the suggestion of the Secretariat, on the grounds that the reasons advanced at the Fourth Session for [Page 718] deferring such a survey no longer obtain and that current world conditions render a study of export restrictions especially appropriate. If strong pressure exists to defer the problem further, United States should suggest that the Secretariat submit a proposed program of study, including any necessary questionnaires, for consideration at the Sixth Session.


At the Fourth Session of the Contracting Parties at Geneva, the Contracting Parties unanimously agreed that it would be desirable to obtain more systematic and comprehensive information on the subject of quantitative restrictions on exports which were being maintained under the provisions of Articles XI to XX inclusive of the GATT; the question of how and when these additional data should be obtained was held in abeyance. This agreement represented a compromise with an original United States-Canadian proposal to instruct the Secretariat to proceed forthwith to collect comprehensive data on existing export restrictions. Virtually all the other contracting parties who expressed an opinion on the subject took the view that the Secretariat was much too overburdened to undertake such a task in the early future. It was clear, of course, that the desire on the part of most of the contracting parties to put off a study was not based upon a concern with overburdening the Secretariat but with a reluctance to pursue further a subject which might constitute a source of embarrassment to some of them.

As matters now stand, it appears that the Secretariat will be working at full capacity until the spring of 1951; the first few months of 1951 will almost certainly be taken up with tariff negotiations, while, in the months following, some of the staff will be taken up with the compilation of questionnaire returns and preparation of a report on balance-of-payments import restrictions. Accordingly, the justification for putting off the study on the basis of the Secretariat’s Workload will diminish toward the close of the spring of 1951.

Apart from the prospective work load of the Secretariat and the attitude of the other contracting parties, however, some definite advantages appear to exist in raising the issue at the Fifth Session. At the outbreak of the Korean affair, export restrictions were at the lowest point since the war’s end. But because of shortages which are likely to attend a rearmaments effort, measures of this sort have begun to reappear in substantial number. Some of these have been unilateral measures by individual countries, while others are being taken on a multilateral basis. The United States is participating in some of these measures but is not involved in a good many others.

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As far as United States interests are concerned, it might well be argued that any measure which may compel us to account more fully for our short-supply export control activities to other countries is objectionable and should, on principle, be avoided. On the other hand, the United States is a heavy net importer of raw materials; measures taken by other countries to restrict their exports of these materials along inequitable lines could probably do the United States a good deal more harm than the need to account for the equity of United States measures. Indeed, since other countries are far less uninhibited than the United States in using short-supply items as weapons in bargaining for various types of economic advantage, the probability is that the more effective application of rules of the game regarding export restrictions, such as those contained in the GATT, would be of substantial net advantage to the United States. As far as the unilateral actions of individual countries are concerned, the prospect of having to report such measures to the Contracting Parties might have a salutary effect in insuring the development of such measures on a more equitable basis. The prospect of such a review might also have a salutary effect upon the content of international allocation agreements of commodities in short supply, by sensitizing the participating countries to the relevant provisions of the GATT.

The OEEC is currently developing a study of export restrictions which are in effect among OEEC countries. While this study would not substitute for an analysis which is worldwide in scope, it will nevertheless provide most of the material which the European countries would need to comply with any GATT-sponsored request for information. Accordingly, the OEEC study removes much of the justification for any complaint on the part of European countries that the reporting burden related to a GATT request would be difficult for them to bear.

  1. The Fifth Session of the Contracting Parties was scheduled to convene at Torquay, England, on November 2 (the third round of GATT tariff negotiations—TN’s—had been in process at Torquay from September 28). For the composition of the U.S. Delegation(s), see Department of State Bulletin, October 2, 1950, p. 553.