The Secretary of State to the Secretary of Agriculture (Benson)1
Dear Ezra: Enclosed is a copy of a confidential note2 handed to me Wednesday afternoon by Ambassador Makins.3 It reflects the British Government’s fear that the inability of the United States to accept any further limitation on the use of quotas on agricultural imports will block our joint efforts to achieve a successful renegotiation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In particular, it might make impossible the acceptance by other countries of more stringent rules on the use of balance-of-payment restrictions, which have served importantly to hinder the export of American agricultural commodities. The note also points out that failure of the GATT negotiations would have serious economic and, hence, political consequences.
Ambassador Makins told me that this note should be regarded as a message from Foreign Secretary Eden, with the full support of the British Cabinet. He said that the note also reflects the views held by the Commonwealth countries generally.
I understand that our two Departments have spent many hours in arriving at an agreed position on Section 22 for use by our GATT Delegation at Geneva. That position, in essence, is that we cannot undertake any commitment that would involve an amendment of Section 22. We are prepared fully to support this presently agreed position. We strongly doubt, however, that our Delegation at Geneva will be able to persuade the other GATT countries to agree to abolish balance-of-payment quotas when at the same time we refuse to accept any significant limitation on our use of agricultural import quotas. It is quite clear, therefore, that our position on [Page 208] the use of agricultural quotas will be the greatest obstacle to reaching international agreement on a revised GATT.
As you know, the President attaches great importance to the successful conclusion of these negotiations. I should appreciate your giving the problem of Section 22 your personal attention to see if anything might be done to strengthen the position of our Delegation at Geneva if the fears described above are realized. A renegotiated GATT will be of direct benefit to American agriculture and to our foreign relations generally. I am sure you will agree that we should give the Delegation every possible assistance we can on this problem.
I am sending a copy of this letter and the British note to other members of the Cabinet concerned with the negotiations at Geneva.