65. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France1

143. Excon. Ref: Polto 185, August 8.2 On Aug 10 Asst Secy Merchant requested French Ambassador3 to communicate to Paris fact that Department disturbed and disappointed French Govt’s unilateral steps to call meeting CG on September 27. Mr. Merchant said this action seemed to show disregard for fact that success and effectiveness COCOM operation in past had been based largely upon close prior collaboration and consultation among France–UK–US. It also disregarded substance and spirit of Tripartite agreement on E–W trade matters prior Summit Meeting. This position was that concessions on West’s security trade control system should not be for commercial advantage alone, but should be related to disarmament and security. Progress toward such settlement could not possibly be judged until after October Foreign Ministers Meeting in Geneva. As to CG discussion of China controls, the US would regard as unthinkable a review of present system at a time when US-Communist China negotiations currently under way in Geneva at Ambassadorial level. These are delicate talks and only as they advance can it be possible to determine Communist China’s future intentions. Mr. Merchant said that we did not oppose calling of CG, but timing could hardly be worse. Hence, we hoped that French could arrange for postponement of date for meeting.

In course of brief subsequent discussion French Ambassador was informed that whereas French had, apparently, made known CG Chairman’s4 intention to call meeting, COCOM Secretary General had not yet issued invitations. We did not, therefore, yet confront necessity of dealing with official invitation, This pointed out in order facilitate French retraction or amendment.

Mr. Merchant said, in conclusion, that we were aware that COCOM countries were doubtless interested in Tripartite handling of E/W trade question at Summit Meetings, and that Department was preparing report on this to be made available to those countries [Page 250] shortly. He assumed that UK and French would be similarly interested in doing this. (Note: Department has not yet decided whether this can be accomplished best through COCOM or diplomatic channel, or whether US–UK–France should render single or parallel reports.)

French Ambassador appeared somewhat abashed, and gave assurances that he understood our position perfectly and would communicate it to Paris.

Department is informing UK Embassy today of its attitude toward French proposal.

Embassies London and Paris and USDel should await further instructions on next steps.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 460.509/8–855. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Barnett and approved by Merchant; also sent to London.
  2. Polto 185 explained the French rationale for proposing the Consultative Group meeting in September. It noted: “In making démarche without prior consultation with U.S. or presumably other PC’s, French apparently want credit with own business community (increasingly restive over China controls) for seizing initiative, plus feeling that international climate presages relaxed controls in general. Embassy believes decision to ask for early CG stems from very high if not highest French level.” (Ibid.)
  3. Maurice Couve de Murville.
  4. Giovanni D’Orlandi.
  5. Telegram 706 from Paris, August 17, reported that a French Foreign Ministry official informed the Embassy that day that the French had decided to postpone the proposed Consultative Group meeting until between November 10 and 15. (Department of State, Central Files, 460.509/8–1755) The Department informed the Embassy in telegram 621 to Paris, August 17, that Ambassador Couve de Murville had conveyed a similar message to the Department that morning, indicating that the French wished that tripartite conversations would be held to fix the exact time and agenda for the CG meeting.