23. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • EEC and EFTA


  • Mr. Frank Figgures, Secretary General, European Free Trade Association
  • Mr. Anders Burass, EFTA Washington Information Office
  • Under Secretary Ball
  • J. Robert Schaetzel, B
  • William C. Harrop, EUR/RA

As substantive conversation began, Mr. Ball and Mr. Figgures agreed that the Heath October 10 presentation to the EEC Foreign Ministers had been excellent. Ball commented that the French flow seem to [Page 50] regard British membership as inevitable and the problem is how it will be accomplished. Ball asked how great a complicating influence the de Gaulle political union initiative might prove to be in Figgures’ opinion.

Figgures had not seen the text, but felt it would provide no complications at all. The proposals seemed to contemplate an absolute minimum of real integration—a requirement of unanimous vote on foreign policy decisions meant little and would scarcely trouble the British. To give substance to political union a binding majority vote was essential. The Dutch take it seriously because they resist any commitments before the UK is a member. In reply to a comment from Mr. Schaetzel, Figgures said he thought the Dutch would accept from the British proposals they would resist if made by the French.

Schaetzel asked about Norway, and Figgures said that in the end the Norwegians would apply for full membership. Norway had been independent for only 50 years, and emotional resistance to integration was greater for them than for any other country. Except for the neutrality concept, even the Swedes would have less difficulty with supra-national aspects of EEC. The German invasion of Norway had turned that country from neutrality. Norway traditionally feels closer to the UK, North Sea, and the U.S. than to Europe. Another reason for the present heated debate in Norway was that the EEC issue had by agreement been ignored in the recent election campaign and now was discussed with greater fervor. Norway was sincerely troubled by the possible split in Scandinavian unity, and was interested in seeing Sweden become associated with the EEC.

In reply to Ball’s question as to whether the EFTA neutrals were now taking their problems more calmly, Figgures said that this was partly the case and that it was in the power of the United States to assist. The problem was to balance neutrality and commercial interest. It must somehow become clear to all which issues were not negotiable because of neutrality. For example, the neutrals would have to retain their option over the amount of domestic agricultural production they would sustain. They must preserve the right to withdraw at any time from their associate status. By the first of the year the neutrals will be ready to negotiate with the EEC.

Mr. Ball commented that the U.S. had been of service in enabling the British to disengage from an impossible negotiating position—that of all seven EFTA members confronting the EEC at once, or of the UK speaking for all. The UK is not off the hook, Figgures said. Britain remained firm that all EFTA countries must be satisfied.

Ball asked about Portugal’s position. Portugal, said Figgures, will have to move for association leading to later membership, on the Greek pattern. The favorable timetable Portugal had obtained from EFTA could be repeated by EEC. The real difficulty was Angola. The Portuguese [Page 51] planned for all practical purposes to merge with Angola as a single country—what would Angola’s relationship to EEC be? Portugal would have to obtain concessions for Angola similar to those the UK could obtain for the Commonwealth. Of course if the Portuguese were meanwhile thrown out of Angola this problem would not arise.

Ball said that U.S. policy was absolutely clear in opposition to any piling up of preferential areas. We would object most strenuously to proposals of this nature, and were seeking solutions in other directions. The U.S. was opposed to any extension of Commonwealth preferences to the EEC or even to their continuation over an extended period. We were actively exploring commodity agreements on certain tropical products. Some sort of world commodity system would probably be required also for such items as wheat, butter and perhaps some others. Figgures commented that retention of Commonwealth preferences in the UK market was not the prime objective of UK negotiators. What they sought was protection for those Commonwealth export industries which were centered on the UK market. The answer need not be through preferences.

Ball said that the U.S. has spoken frankly with Australia, New Zealand, and Canada about our opposition to preferences. We will have to sit down before long with all interested countries to seek global solutions to many of these trade problems. Figgures felt that with sufficient leverage from the U.S. an acceptable tropical products solution could be found. He went on to say that it was important that the EEC-UK negotiations be completed, at least in substance, before the next British election campaign, which could come in the summer of 1962.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 375.800/11–661. Confidential. Drafted by Harrop on November 7 and approved in B on November 14. A memorandum of a similar conversation between Figgures and Tyler on November 7 is ibid., 375.800/11–761.