Atomic Energy Files, Lot 57 D 688

Minutes of the Meeting of Anglo-American-Belgian Representatives at the Department of State, June 11, 1951

top secret

Those present for the Belgians were:

Governor-General Pierre Ryckmans

Ambassador Silvercruys

Mr. Etienne Harford

Present for the British were:

Sir Christopher Steel

Mr. F. W. Marten

Mr. P. J. Eaton

Present for the Americans were:

State Department:

  • Assistant Secretary George Perkins
  • Mr. R. Gordon Arneson
  • Mr. David H. McKillop

Department of Defense:

  • Colonel William Kieffer

Atomic Energy Commission:

  • Chairman Gordon Dean
  • Commissioner Sumner Pike
  • Mr. John Hall

Mr. Perkins opened the meeting by stating that the American and British representatives had read with interest the Belgian memorandum [Page 734] of June 1st and wished to take the present opportunity to ask the Belgians certain questions that had occurred to them as a result of this reading.

Mr. Perkins first asked for a clarification of the meaning of Section 1 of the Memorandum regarding consideration of the Congo aspects of the problem.

Governor Ryckmans stated that the Joint Communiqué1 in the present form failed to mention Congo interests and that it was good that this question of the Congo should be brought up now, even if late, for otherwise he felt that criticism would be aimed at the originally proposed settlement as a bad example of colonialism. He said that it was his responsibility to assure that Congo interests were safeguarded and stated that any additional tax revenue would be paid into the Congo and not into the Belgian Treasury since uranium is a Congo asset. The Congo Government, however, would be justified in making some of these funds available to the Belgian Government to support atomic research in Belgium, as such research would increase the value of uranium and hence would be in the interest of the Congo as well as Belgium.

Sir Christopher Steel stated that research in Belgium seemed really just to benefit Belgium and he did not see how it aided the Congo. He pointed out that on Governor Ryckmans’ reasoning, it could also be stated that atomic energy research and development in the United States and the United Kingdom were also a benefit to the Congo, as it increased the value of uranium.

Mr. Perkins then inquired where the present tax revenue derived from uranium was being spent. Governor Ryckmans replied that it was all spent in the Congo and none in Belgium.

Sir Christopher inquired what would be done if the increased revenue were greater than the financial requirements of the Belgian atomic energy program.

Governor Ryckmans replied that the Congo Government could absorb any surplus, since actually its budget was still much too small in comparison to the tremendous needs of so large a country and the expenditures involved.

Mr. Perkins inquired whether by paying an increased tax we committed ourselves to the support of a Congo development program.

Governor Ryckmans replied in the negative and stated that uranium should share the common tax fate of other Congo raw materials and hence we would just be complying with normal Congo tax procedures.

Mr. Perkins asked what was the object of quoting the figures in paragraph 4 of section 2 of the Memorandum since the tax on uranium in terms of francs was already greater than any of the tax figures quoted for other Congo commodities.

[Page 735]

Governor Ryckmans replied that the tax should reflect the intrinsic value of uranium, and therefore the tax on uranium should be greater proportionately than any of the other commodities.

Sir Christopher Steel commented that uranium actually had no commercial value and at this stage was used entirely for defense purposes.

Governor Ryckmans agreed but stated that all the Western world was benefiting from Congo uranium in bombs, including British and French African colonies, and that since uranium came from the Congo, the Congo should have some specific benefit therefrom, besides that accruing from the greater general security that the atomic weapons provided.

Mr. Perkins asked whether the owner referred to in paragraph 2 of section 3 was the Congo Government or Union Minière.

Governor Ryckmans replied that it was the Congo Government, adding that uranium is a unique asset and one that will be exhausted; therefore, the Congo Government would have to account for the stewardship of uranium to the Congo people and show that special benefits have been obtained therefrom.

Mr. Perkins commented that in mining, prices usually took into consideration depletion of deposits since all mines are exhaustible, and then asked what was meant by fiscal necessities referred to in Section III, paragraph 3.

Governor Ryckmans replied that fiscal necessities involved the tax question, pointing out that no surtaxes had been imposed during the war because of security considerations, but that after the war, a tax had been imposed only on profits; thus the price when first fixed during the war did not include the tax, because there was no tax at that time.

Mr. Eaton commented that according to the uranium contracts, Union Minière should bear all taxation, whereupon Governor Ryckmans commented that this fact indicated the American taxpayer was not bearing this cost.

Sir Christopher Steel rebutted by stating this fact could also be construed as meaning that we were paying such a good price that the Company could afford to pay the tax out of its profits.

Referring to Section V, Mr. Perkins asked whether the Belgians still washed to publish the substance of the Agreement of 1944.

Governor Ryckmans replied that his Government would like to do so but only after a settlement was reached in present negotiations which would clarify the whole subject. At that time they would also wish to publish a Joint Communiqué which would outline the technical assistance the U.S. and the U.K. would furnish the Belgian atomic energy program. Again, however, it was difficult to get this program [Page 736] under way until such time as a final clarification of relationships among the three countries regarding uranium matters had been achieved. In any case, whatever communiqué was issued would have to indicate that Congo interests were taken care of in the arrangements announced.

Mr. Arneson wondered if the money were given on the basis of contributing to the Congo instead of on the basis of 9a,2 whether the AEC could justify a contribution on the former basis.

Governor Ryckmans stated that although he realized that from our point of view we were contributing on the basis of 9a, it would not be difficult through rather slight revisions in the communiqué to bring Congo interests into consideration as well as 9a. He did envisage some difficulty with reference to giving out figures because of security considerations.

Chairman Dean commented that he would like to avoid any wording which would involve U.S. agreement to a tax. He felt that appropriations could be obtained from Congress more readily if Congress could be told that the tax had been imposed as a fait accompli, with which the United States had no other choice but to comply.

Mr. Perkins stated that he felt the information obtained from the Belgians had been very useful and as a result hoped that at the end of the week Governor Ryckmans, Chairman Dean, and Sir Christopher Steel might get together to discuss the financial aspects of the negotiations. It was agreed that we would get in touch with Governor Ryckmans as soon as the British and American representatives were prepared for this meeting.

David H. McKillop
  1. The draft communiqué is not printed.
  2. For text, see footnote 6, p. 701.