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54 Attlee to Commonwealth Government

Circular Cablegram [D]615 LONDON, 1 October 1942, 10.14 p.m.


My telegram No. 604 of 19th September. [1] Post War Economic Talks.

In determining the personnel and scope of your representation at the proposed forthcoming conversations it may be useful for your Government to receive a clear[er] indication of the agenda of the proposed conversations than was possible at the date when telegram No. D.383 of 26th August [2] was sent.

Since the despatch of my telegram No. D.259 of 22nd May [3], which outlined in general terms the nature of the instructions we should give to our experts in the conversations which were at that time anticipated, proposals have been prepared by the Treasury in regard to the group of topics referred to in paragraph 5(a) of that telegram under the general description of 'proposals for an International Clearing Union for establishing a new system of International currency associated with gold for post war purposes'.

These proposals, which have received Cabinet approval as a basis for informal discussion with the United States Authorities, are all of a far reaching character and are being discussed at an early stage of consideration of post war policy, because, if adopted, they will provide a pivot around which much else could turn.

Although, as stated in my telegram No. D.383, it has so far been impracticable for the preliminary conversations to take place there has been some informal and unofficial discussion between Sir F. Phillips and the United States Treasury and State Department.

In the course of these discussions a document outlining these 'clearing union' proposals has been communicated to the United States Treasury and the State Department in Washington informally, but with the indication that if circumstances had not delayed the opening of the discussions foreshadowed in Article VII of the Mutual Aid Agreement, these proposals would have been put forward as a basis for discussion officially.

They are now under preliminary and informal discussion between Sir F. Phillips and the American Departments and we understand that their reception has, on the whole, been sympathetic.

Before we proceed to a further stage in discussion with the United States, which is likely to take place after the American elections, we should greatly value more intimate consultation on the proposals with representatives of the Dominions as already explained at an informal level and without the commitment of any Government being involved.

You will, however, appreciate from what has been explained above that the proposals are of the highest importance and have already reached a considerable degree of definition in draft. We should be most reluctant to find ourselves carried past the initial stage before we had had the advantage of a personal exchange of views with representatives of Dominion Governments.

There are certain other matters which we may also be ready to discuss with Dominion representatives, in particular, methods by which prices of primary products might be stabilised. But these are not so far advanced as the proposals for the Clearing Union.

It remains very desirable that the proposed conversations should take place without publicity. [4] Such publicity might embarrass the United States Government at a time when elections are impending.

It would also be unfortunate if a misleading impression were created that the Governments of the British Commonwealth were attempting to establish a common Empire front, vis-a-vis the United States. We should be very grateful if we could have earliest possible reply as to Commonwealth representation and suitability of proposed date. [5]

1 On file AA:A989, 43/735/56/1. It acknowledged the Commonwealth Govt's acceptance of an invitation to attend informal discussions on post-war economic policy in London.

2 FA:A3195, 1942, 1.34188. It suggested that since U.S. officials would not be in a position to discuss post-war economic policy until after the U.S. elections (to be held on 3 November), the intervening period should be used to hold informal discussions between U.K. and Dominion representatives.

3 FA:A3195, 1942, 1.20170/77, 1.20185/95.

4 Some publicity did, however, occur. See Document 104, note 14.

5 The Commonwealth Govt selected Dr Roland Wilson as its principal representative and economic adviser at the London talks. Jacob Fletcher (a tariff expert from the Trade and Customs Dept) and F.

L. McDougall and F. T. Sprange (respectively Economic Adviser and Accountant at the High Commission in London) were also present at one or more sessions.

See Curtin's cablegrams 8964 of 30 September (on file AA:M100, September 1942) and 9105 of 5 October (on file AA:M100, October 1942) and the list from Wilson's letter to Curtin of 18 January 1943 on the file cited in note 1.

[AA:A989, 43/735/56/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History