Wednesday, 8th May 1929

8th May, 1929

[Written from Geneva]

My dear Prime Minister,

At the moment I am in the middle of the meeting of the Economic Consultative Committee, and so far it is impossible to judge what sort of results may be expected. [1] There has been an extraordinarily large volume of documentation, a great deal of which is of very substantial interest, but so far as the meeting itself is concerned, we are now at the commencement of the third day of a series of set speeches which, with one or two exceptions, cannot be regarded as being of very great importance. The general tenor of the speeches so far delivered has reflected a feeling of criticism and pessimism regarding the attempts made through the League of Nations to induce nations to lower tariffs. As you already know, I spoke very definitely on this subject. My speech, which was very incorrectly reported owing to the stupidity of the League Press Bureau, appears to have given considerable satisfaction to the whole of the British Delegation [2] with the exception of W. T. Layton, [3] who naturally disliked it. The other two parts of the British Empire represented, Canada and India, have both stated that my speech represented their point of view, and Sir Atul Chatterjee [4] made this statement in the full committee. The representatives of a number of European nations have told me that this point of view is one which their countries would support. These included Sweden, Denmark and Poland.

With regard to the text of my speech, I made one or two very small alterations to the copy I forwarded to you last week, the only one of importance being that I changed the words ‘there has been a (growing feeling) that the tariff was handicapping production’, into the words ‘there has been a (feeling in some quarters)…’ I spoke in the afternoon of the first day of the meeting. On the second day the outstanding speech was made by M. Loucheur [5], Minister of the Interior of France, who is Vice-president of the Economic Consultative Committee. Loucheur made an extraordinarily frank declaration that he believed there was little chance of a reduction of tariff barriers except on the basis of the formation of a series of European cartels to defend the position against the immense increase in exports from the U.S.A., which he forecast, curiously enough, almost exactly on the lines you used in your speech at the Imperial Conference in 1926; that is to say he drew attention to the very small percentage of American manufacturing production which is now exported (8%), and pointed out that a small percentage increase would have a tremendous effect on world trade.

This letter is a very summary note, and I shall try to send you a much fuller account by the next mail.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 The Economic Consultative Committee of the League of Nations met in Geneva from 6 to 11 May.

2 See note 6 to Letter 224.

3 Editor of the Economist.

4 High Commissioner for India in London; a Vice-President of the Economic Consultative Committee.

5 Louis Loucheur.