Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs (Bourgerie)


Subject: African Problems.

Participants: Governor-General Laurentie, Member of French Delegation on Trusteehip Council, United Nations.
Mr. Guy Monod, French Foreign Office.
Mr. Gabriel van Laethem, Second Secretary, French Embassy.
Mr. George C. McGhee—NEA
Mr. E. H. Bourgerie—ANE
Mr. Jerome R. Lavallee—ANE

Messrs. Laurentie and Monod, representatives of the French Government, who had been attending the talks on colonial problems in the United Nations in the Department,1 called on Mr. McGhee in order to have an informal talk with the Assistant Secretary before leaving Washington.

In answer to an inquiry from Mr. McGhee, Mr. Bourgerie stated that the talks on colonial problems in the UN, which had been held between the French representatives and Department officials, had been most helpful. Governor-General Laurentie said that he was very pleased with the results of the talks and that he felt that a much wider area of agreement now existed between the United States and France on these UN problems, and that he was of the opinion that the talks would lead to closer cooperation in this field between the two governments. Mr. McGhee said that he hoped that the two governments would continue to collaborate with each other on such matters and that they would discuss from time to time specific problems of this nature which were of interest to both governments.

Mr. McGhee asked Mr. Laurentie about conditions in French “Black” Africa. Mr. Laurentie replied that he believed that the political reforms which had been brought about in 1945 and 1946 in French West Africa, French Equatorial Africa and the Trust Territories of the Cameroons and Togoland had struck a good balance between the wishes of the native populations and the necessities of Government. He stated that outside of the Ewe problem in Togoland, the political conditions in these areas were good, and that he was of the opinion that real progress was being made in the political and economic development of these areas.

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Turning to North Africa, Mr. McGhee inquired of Mr. Laurentie whether he believed that the conditions in that area were worse this year than they were last year. Mr. Laurentie stated that he was not an expert on North African questions, and that he did not know if that was true. He stated, however, that unfortunately many Nationalist groups in North Africa have the impression that they have the full support of the United States, and that many of these groups are only interested in obtaining independence without due regard to the rights of the French or other minorities, or without due regard to political or economic factors which come into play. Mr. McGhee stated that that was indeed a false impression for it was the policy of the United States Government to help maintain a strong France. He stated that the United States wished to work closely with France in order to maintain peace and security in her colonies and in order to assist the French in an orderly development of these colonies. Mr. McGhee said that we wished to help France, as much as possible, and whenever any problems arose we would like to talk them over with the French officials as friend to friend.

In this connection, Mr. McGhee said that in the event of war, North Africa would again play a vital role, and that it was in our interests as well as in the interests of the French to maintain stable conditions in North Africa. We were, therefore, very much interested in any constructive steps which the French Government could take in certain of their territories which would result in keeping Nationalist pressures from building up to dangerous proportions.

Mr. McGhee emphasized that it would be harmful to the interests of both countries if repressive rather than forward-looking measures were adopted in North Africa. He emphasized that the United States had no desire to break up the French Empire and that any thoughts we might have on North African political problems should be accepted by the French Government in the friendly spirit in which they were put forward. He added that the United States, looking at the North African picture as more of a disinterested observer, felt that it would be in the best interests of France if more attention was given to the granting of certain political reforms which would meet some of the grievances of the Nationalists in North Africa.

Mr. McGhee then raised the Moroccan trade problem with Mr. Monod and he expressed the hope that the French authorities in Morocco could be persuaded to take a more moderate position with respect to the application of import and exchange controls which affect American businessmen operating in Morocco. Mr. McGhee told Mr. Monod that Mr. Rodes had been very active in Congress and has [Page 1549] succeeded in persuading one of the Senate committees to add to the ECA Appropriation Bill a very strong amendment which would require the withholding of ECA counterpart funds from any country which violates any of its treaty obligations with the United States. The Assistant Secretary pointed out to Mr. Monod that this latest amendment to the ECA Appropriation Bill was much stronger than the Connally Amendment and that if the ECA had to enforce this amendment it might have a very serious effect on the ECA program in France. Mr. McGhee said that he realized that Mr. Monod is not responsible for North African affairs, but that he hoped that on his return to Paris he would discuss this matter with officials in the Foreign Office who were responsible for this area and make known to them the seriousness with which we view this problem. He added that he hoped that the authorities in Morocco would take a more liberal point of view in the enforcement of the December 31, 1949 Agreement to the end that some of the problems rising from that agreement could be settled satisfactorily. Mr. Monod said that for our part we must also consider that the French had certain Parliamentary problems in so far as their own businessmen were concerned and that this created certain complications which the French Government had to take into account.2

Mr. Monod then asked Mr. McGhee whether he was planning to stop off in Paris in September on his way to the Tangier Consular Conference. Mr. McGhee said that he was hoping that it would be possible to arrange his schedule in such a way that he would be able to visit Paris for informal discussions with French officials on substantive matters relating to Africa. Mr. Monod said that he was very pleased to hear that Mr. McGhee planned to visit Paris in September and he expressed the opinion that informal talks with the various French officials in Paris would indeed prove most helpful in reaching a meeting of minds on various problems relating to Africa and in strengthening relations between the two countries.

Mr. Monod said that the French had given a great deal of thought and consideration to economic development in Africa and that his Government had prepared a brochure giving details of their economic development plans for that area. He handed Mr. McGhee and Mr. Bourgerie copies of this document and expressed the hope that they would have an opportunity to study it prior to their visit to Paris in September.

  1. Regarding the talks under reference here, see the editorial note, supra.
  2. For more comprehensive documentation on aspects of the Moroccan trade problem taken up in this paragraph, see pp. 1737 ff.