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136. TRIPARTITE CONFERENCE ON DOLLAR EARNING
Joint Communiqué of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, September 12, 1949
1. Representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have met during the past week to examine the trade and financial relationships between the sterling area and the dollar area. The pound and the dollar are the two principal world trading currencies. While the development of a satisfactory balance of payments between the two areas is a matter of fundamental concern to the democratic world, it involves many problems which concern in the first instance the governments which are the centers of these two currency systems. The present discussions were held to examine these problems. It was recognized that the task of working out conditions under which world trade can develop steadily and in increasing freedom will require a strenuous and sustained effort, not only on the part of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, but also by all other countries desiring the same objectives.
2. It was agreed that the common aim is to work toward an ultimate solution which will maintain employment and establish equilibrium of international trade on a mutually profitable basis at high levels. These objectives and general course of action have already been set forth in the United Nations Charter, the Bretton Woods Agreements, and the Havana Charter for an International Trade Organization. It was the broad purpose of the present meetings to explore, within this general framework, various specific measures which the three governments might take to prevent a serious breakdown in the dollar-sterling relationships which would have led to a crippling limitation of dollar imports into the sterling area and to hasten the achievement of those objectives.
3. These conversations have carried forward the consultations initiated in London during July 8-10. They have resulted in a clear understanding of the character of the difficulties to be faced and an increasing realization that a fully satisfactory solution will necessitate continuing efforts in many directions. In the course of these conversations it has become possible to discuss with complete frankness specific problems and the types of measures which will have to be taken if the three countries are to achieve their common purpose. 4. In the early stages of the discussion, attention was given to the immediate problem confronting the United Kingdom and the rest of the sterling area as a result of the rapid decline of gold and dollar reserves. Note was taken by the three governments of the emergency action which sterling area countries have decided to take to meet this situation. These measures are not pleasant ones; they will cause difficulties and sacrifices for everyone concerned. Nevertheless, they are a temporary necessity, and are recognized as such by all three governments.
5. The Ministers were in complete agreement that no permanent solution to the problem could be found in the emergency steps contemplated. A more fundamental attempt would have to be made by all concerned to expand the dollar earnings of the sterling area
Department of State Bulletin of September 26, 1949,pp. 473–475.
and to increase the flow of investment from the North American Continent to the rest of the world, including the sterling area.
6. This more fundamental attempt would involve both separate actions of the three countries operating individually, and joint action by the three acting in cooperation with each other. In approaching these possibilities of individual and joint action on the sterling-dollar problem, there was common agreement that this action should be based on the assumption that extraordinary aid from the North American Continent would have come to an end by the middle of 1952. This would require that the sterling area increase its dollar earnings so as to pay its way by 1952. This would require in the sterling area the creation of appropriate incentives to exporters to the dollar area and a vigorous attack upon costs of production to enhance the competitive position of sterling area products. Maximum efforts would be made to direct exports to the dollar area and build up earnings from tourism and other services. As a part of this export campaign by the sterling area countries, it was recognized that an essential element was the creation of a feeling of confidence on the part of sterling area exporters. They must feel that they will be afforded the opportunity to remain in the markets of the United States and Canada in which they will have gained a place, and that the minimum of difficulties will be placed in their way in entering those markets.
On their part the creditor countries undertook to facilitate, to the greatest extent feasible, an expansion of dollar earnings by debtor countries, incuding the sterling area. It was agreed that the United States and Canada should reduce obstacles to the entry of goods and services from debtor countries, in order to provide as wide an opportunity as possible for those countries to earn dollars through the export of goods and the provision of services, including tourism. It was recognized that such a policy would be in the interest of producers in the United States and Canada, for only in this way can the future level of trade provide adequately for those sectors of the American and Canadian economies which depend in considerable part upon foreign markets.
7. The discussion of possible individual and joint actions, both long-run and short-run, ranged over a wide field. In addition to the question of dollar earnings of the United Kingdom and the rest of the sterling area, mentioned above, the Ministers gave special attention to the following subjects:
1. Overseas investment
2. Commodity arrangements and stockpiling
3. Limitations on items which may be financed under present ECA procedures
4. Customs procedures
5. Tariff policy
6. Liberalization of intra-European trade and payments
7. Sterling balances
10. Provisions for continuing consultation
8. A working group on overseas investment reviewed both recent experience and future prospects for the flow of productive investment, both private and public, from North America to overseas areas,
especially underdeveloped countries. It was agreed that a high level of such investment could make an important contribution toward reducing the sterling-dollar disequilibrium and that every aspect of this problem should be explored on a continuing basis. In order to initiate this work, the President's Committee for Financing Foreign Trade will be asked immediately to explore possible lines of action in cooperation with corresponding groups of British and Canadian financial and business representatives. While dealing with all aspects of private and public investment, the Committee will be expected to address itself especially to the problem of incentives and of providing a suitable environment for a high level of private investment.
9. A working group on commodity arrangements and stockpiling gave special attention to rubber and tin. The Canadian representatives stated that the Canadian Government was prepared to take steps to increase reserve stocks of tin and rubber in Canada. The United States representatives reported that the United States Government was prepared to open to natural rubber a substantial additional area of competition, including a modification of the Government order relating to the consumption of synthetic rubber. The United States would review its stockpiling program, with particular reference to rubber and tin.
10. Special attention was given by another group to the practical difficulty being experienced by the United Kingdom in making fully effective use of its ECA aid to cover its dollar deficit. This difficulty arises out of the fact that, although the United Kingdom needs dollars to pay for goods in the United States, to make settlements with other countries, to pay for services, and for other purposes, the types of transactions which may be financed by ECA dollars have been definitely limited. It has been agreed that, in order to carry out the basic purposes of the Economic Cooperation Act, it will be necessary for the United Kingdom to finance with its share of ECA funds a wider range of dollar expenditures than has hitherto been eligible, both within and outside of the United States. After careful examination of the dollar expenditures proposed to be made or authorized by the United Kingdom, it appears that eligibility requirements can be broadened to the extent required within the limits set by the Economic Cooperation Act. This would broaden the use but not increase the amount of ECA funds allocated to the United Kingdom.
11. In the consideration of measures which creditor countries might take to reduce barriers to trade, it was recognized that customs procedures may create obstacles, psychological as well as actual. Technical discussions of this subject disclosed that the United States, through administrative action and proposed legislation, was already contemplating constructive steps in this field. Canadian representatives stated that the Canadian Government would undertake a further review of the administrative operation of its Customs Act
1 The following is the membership of the President's Committee for Financing Foreign Trade which was established June 26, 1946: Winthrop W. Aldrich, chairman The Chase National Bank of the City of New York, New York, N. Y., Champ Carry, president Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Corp., Chicago, Ill., Walter J. Cummings, chairman Continental-Illinois National Bank and Trust Co., Chicago, Ill., L. M. Giannini, president Bank of America, San Francisco, Calif., Edward Hopkinson, Jr., partner, Drexel and Company, Philadelphia, Pa., Irving S. Olds, chairman, U. S. Steel Corporation, New York, N. Y., Herbert H. Pease, president New Britain Machine Co., New Britain, Conn., A. W. Robertson, chairman Westinghouse Electric Corp., Pittsburgh, Pa., Tom K. Smith, president The Boatmen's National Bank of St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo., Charles Deere Wiman, president Deere and Company, Moline, I.
in the light of these discussions. As to tariff rates, it was noted that high tariffs were clearly inconsistent with the position of creditor countries. There had already been significant and substantial reductions in U. S. tariffs during the last fifteen years. The policy of the United States Government was to seek further negotiation of trade agreements through which additional reductions might be made, within the framework of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act. 12. There was agreement that one of the ways in which the competitive position of United Kingdom products might be improved was by a widening of the area in which such products competed freely with those of other countries. In this connection as an initial step toward a more general liberalization the United Kingdom delegation outlined its proposals for liberalizing trade with countries with which it did not have balance of payments difficulties, and raised the question whether the provisions of Section 9 of the Anglo-American Financial Agreement, and Article 5 of the Anglo-Canadian Financial Agreement presented an obstacle to such a plan. It was the view of the United States and Canadian delegations that such liberalization of United Kingdom import regulations should be considered since the United Kingdom shortage of dollars should not in itself force the United Kingdom to reduce its purchases from areas with which it does not have a shortage of means of payment. It was agreed that any United Kingdom import regulations as they affect United States and Canadian products would be the subject of continuing review by representatives of the three governments through continuing facilities for consultation.
13. (a) A further subject which was discussed was the United Kingdom liability represented by the sterling balances of other countries. A large number of countries has been accustomed to hold either all or a part of their foreign exchange reserves in the form of sterling. The existence and availability of such holdings is an integral feature of the widespread multilateral use of sterling for the purpose of financing international trade. One of the problems of the postwar period has been the existence of exceptionally large accumulations of sterling which were built up, mainly during the war, as the result of payments by the United Kingdom for goods and services purchased overseas in furtherance of the common war effort. In June 1945 these balances amounted to $13 billion. Since then there have been considerable fluctuations both in the total and in the holdings of individual countries, though the amount outstanding at the end of 1948 was approximately the same as at June 1945.
(b) In principle the whole of these balances represents a charge on United Kingdom production of goods and services. In practice, however, a substantial proportion will continue to be held as reserves by the countries concerned. To the extent that the balances are liquidated, some proportion of United Kingdom production of goods and services is used to discharge this liability instead of to pay for current imports of goods and services.
(c) This whole problem in its various aspects, including the necessity to provide capital goods for development, was discussed in a preliminary way on the basis of prior technical examination by the experts of the three governments. It was agreed that this was one of the subjects which concerned other countries and would require further study.
14. Investigation of the ways in which the sterling area could move toward a position in which it could earn its own way led to the discussion of other special problems, including petroleum and shipping-two important elements in the sterling area balance of payments picture. The United Kingdom representatives set forth the facts of the very large dollar deficit which the sterling area presently incurs because of oil transactions, and their desire to reduce this deficit to the minimum possible level. It was mutually recognized that the question of oil production and refining, and geographical distribution raised problems of extreme complexity involving the protection of legitimate interests of the major producing countries and companies. The Ministers recognized that these two questions of petroleum and shipping could not be resolved in the short time available to them, and that further study would be required. In the case of petroleum they agreed to appoint representatives to analyze the facts and to provide the basis for subsequent discussions.
15. There has been agreement on the objective toward which policies should be directed and agreement on certain immediate steps which will be taken to bring that objective nearer. There are, however, as has been emphasized, a number of questions requiring closer examination than this short conference has allowed. It is proposed, therefore, to continue the examinations, initiated during the conference, of questions on which it is hoped that useful understanding can be reached under the direction of the present Ministerial group. These arrangements for continuing consultation-supplementing the usual channels of communication between governments-will be used to keep under review the effectiveness of actions already agreed upon and to prepare, for governmental consideration, measures which could carry further those adjustments which are considered to be necessary. In establishing these arrangements for continuing consultation, the three Governments wish to emphasize that these arrangements underline rather than diminish their interest in the development of economic cooperation within the entire community of western nations. The tripartite arrangements will not in any way encroach upon, or detract from, the area of competence of the OEEC and other existing organs of international economic collaboration. On the contrary, these arrangements for continuing consultation, by contributing materially to the solution of problems which today adversely affect the working of the entire OEEC group and yet are not susceptible of solution within that group, will facilitate the progress of economic collaboration in the wider field.
16. In summary the Ministers of the three countries concerned are satisfied that a real contribution to the solution of the sterling-dollar difficulties has been made by the conclusions recorded above. They are confident that, with sustained efforts on all sides and with the seizure of every opportunity by sterling area exporters to enter into and remain in dollar markets which are open to them, there is the prospect of reaching a satisfactory equilibrium between the sterling and dollar areas by the time exceptional dollar aid comes to an end."