Secretary’s Letters, lot 56 D 459, “M”

President Eisenhower to Prime Minister Churchill


Dear Winston: I have studied carefully the proposals for relaxation of East-West trade controls which officials of your Government gave to our Embassy in London on March 1.1 I understand that these proposals have been personally approved by you.

As you no doubt realize, the United States Government has for some time been conducting a searching review of all aspects of East-West trade controls. I can assure you that the United States is prepared to go a significant distance toward the contraction and simplification of those controls—objectives which we both share.

However, we do not believe we should go so great a distance and so suddenly as the United Kingdom proposals suggest. To do so would be, I think, to go beyond what is immediately safe or in the common interest of the free world.

I appreciate the weight that must be given to the strong views in favor of decontrol that are held by the British public and by the British business community. I assume, however, that you equally realize the weight of public and Congressional opinion in the United States and the problems arising out of the Battle Act. It would be most unfortunate if pressures in either of our countries produced reactions adversely affecting Anglo-American relations—political, economic, and military—as well as the strength of the NATO coalition.

Ordinarily, I would not insert into our correspondence any matter of detail that properly belongs to our respective diplomatic services. But because your recent speech2 indicates that you have personally considered some of the included questions of the broad [Page 1120] general subject, I feel a slight deviation from our normal practice is justified.

I feel strongly that the control system must continue to include equipment and raw materials of high war-potential significance, whether or not they have wide civilian use, where the Soviet bloc has a serious deficiency which it cannot overcome in a short time. However, there is room for discussion as to the scope and severity of the controls which should be applied under this principle.

Whereas the United Kingdom proposals would appear to eliminate International Lists II and III, I am convinced that there is an area in which quantitative restrictions are the most appropriate control mechanism. Of course, I recognize that it may be desirable to narrow substantially the area to which such controls need be applied, but I do not think we can scrap them altogether.

These seem to me to be the main differences between us. Although the gap appears wide, we have resolved greater differences before this to our mutual advantage and will do so again. I suggest, then, that we ask our responsible officials to meet together very soon, presumably with their French counterparts, and try to find the common ground on which we can continue jointly to provide constructive leadership to the Consultative Group.

Finally, I have two other suggestions to make. For one thing, I think it would be very useful if our representatives and subsequently the members of the Consultative Group, were jointly to examine and assess the meaning and direction of the Russians’ new trade policy, including the much-publicized Russian profession of interest in consumer goods. Secondly, I think it would be advantageous for our representatives to explore ways and means by which the free world might exploit, in its relations with the Soviet bloc, any decision to relax existing controls.3

As ever,

  1. For the substance of these proposals, see telegram 3741 from London, Mar. 1, 1954, p. 1082.
  2. The reference here is to the speech of Feb. 25, described in footnote 2, p. 1081.
  3. Prime Minister Churchill’s reply, as follows, was transmitted in telegram 4135 from London, Mar. 24:

    “My Dear Friend,

    “Thank you for your message of March 19 about the relaxation of East/West trade controls. We shall be very glad to talk over with your representatives the points set out in your message and I would urge that the talks should take place as soon as possible. I agree that French representatives should also take part. I suggest that if possible our officials should be informed before the discussions begin what variations in terms of items your government would wish to add to the revised list we have proposed. Winston.” (460.509/3–2454)