033.4211/5–1353: Telegram

No. 972
The Chargé in Canada (Willoughby) to the Department of State


248. No distribution outside Department. Re Department telegram niact 220, May 9, 1953, 5 p.m.1 Consult reference telegram originating office for distribution within Department.

Preliminary reactions by key Canadian officials indicate general satisfaction St. Laurent visit. No commitments from United States expected and none inferred. Reception accorded Prime Minister by United States officials and press created favorable impression.
Prime Minister and other members party favorably impressed by President, especially his quick grasp and background knowledge subjects discussed. President convinced Prime Minister that administration attitudes and objectives are generally sound and substantially same as Canadian. Visit re-enforced conviction Congress is principal obstacle to policies advocated by Canada.
General commercial policy: Visit reassured Canadian officials somewhat as to administration attitudes but otherwise did not greatly alter the situation as reported Embassy despatch 1136, May 62 and previous. Canadians no less convinced vital importance leadership by US in reducing world trade barriers and apprehensive delays will result in action by Congress prejudging general policy or leading to unfavorable reactions abroad, especially loss of momentum of British initiative.
Customs Union: I and several other Department officers now in BNA, together with two Canadian officials, explored in detail five years ago in greatest secrecy customs union or similar arrangement.3 Canadian Government decided to abandon project. Since then have checked periodically with same Canadians still in key positions. Their appraisal has always been that prospects have become progressively less favorable. Under Secretary External Affairs Wilgress who also knew of project confirmed this view emphatically only few weeks ago. Pickersgill even more categoric. Our own judgment of political factors and public attitudes in Canada confirms their opinion. If detailed consideration to be given customs [Page 2094] union or similar arrangements, would welcome coming Department for consultation.
Super favored nation clause: Canadian Government fully committed multilateral approach to world trade problems and to minimizing this type of discrimination against countries not enjoying super favored nation rates. Canadian officials undoubtedly would point out effect would be to handicap exports such countries to United States and Canada thereby hampering efforts European and other countries to narrow dollar gap.
Economic Board: Canadian Government will carefully consider with open mind possibility Economic Board and may require some time to formulate firm position. Initial reaction key officials however negative. Pearson reportedly suggested Board offhandedly with thought it would serve to delay action advocated by pressure groups in cases such as current proposals for increase United States lead and zinc duties. He now believes impractical to delay Congressional action by this means and is said to regret, however [regret he ever] suggested Board. Howe quoted as being noncommittal. Pickersgill strongly opposed. Economic officials tend to be negative on grounds most economic problems can successfully be resolved through normal diplomatic procedures and remainder stem from Congressional attitudes and not susceptible solution by Board. Important not to refer to above views of individuals in discussions with Canadian Embassy or other Canadian officials.4
St. Lawrence: External Affairs officials stated that the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister were convinced the President earnestly and sincerely desired to expedite the St. Lawrence project to full extent that it lay within power of the administration. They were less happy about statement issued by special Cabinet committee which seemed in their opinion to indicate an inadequate appreciation of intensity of Canadian feeling in regard to the seaway and also took what was considered a retrograde step back to pre-1941 by reintroducing the issue of construction on American side. They are not, however, inclined to take this last too seriously.
Defense: External Affairs officials stated that defense questions had tended to be dealt with in the general discussions on the [Page 2095] military and political situation in Europe and Asia and that such a tour d’horizon was more or less what the Canadians had in mind. Aside from this general review the Canadians had only two specific points they had desired to make and which they believed they had made clear in the course of these conversations: (1) That in making far-ranging plans which might involve Canada the Canadians desired the United States consult and inform Canada well in advance; (2) that the question of placement of Canada’s best air squadrons abroad for defense of Europe and filling of resultant gap in Canadian home defense by American forces was matter of growing political sensitivity in Canada and might require greater attention by Canada in future.
Canadian press generally satisfied with outcome visit. Factual coverage full and editorial coverage moderate. Embassy will report further developments.
  1. Telegram 220 briefly summarized the second meeting between President Eisenhower and Prime Minister St. Laurent on May 8 covered by the U.S. Minutes, supra.(611.42/5–953)
  2. Document 968.
  3. For documentation on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ix, pp. 406–412.
  4. On May 15, Merchant, Peterson, and L.D. Brown met with Canadian Minister Pierce and Counselor of Embassy Le Pan to discuss the understandings reached on economic matters during St. Laurent’s visit. The Canadians stressed their belief that Canada was committed only to studying the proposal for a Joint Economic Board, and that the talk at the White House about free trade and a customs union should be considered a completely separate matter and should not be mentioned in public. (Memorandum of conversation by L.D. Brown, May 15, 1953; 411.4231/5–1553)