15 AUGUST 1947, Page 2

Limits of the Paris Conference

The next stage in the European economic conference is the welding of the completed questionnaires provided by the sixteen member nations into a unified statement of joint requirements and resources. Part of this work can be carried out by the officials and experts in Paris without undue difficulty. Conflicts of fact can be resolved, overlapping claims can be adjusted and gaps can be filled in. Beyond that there are a number of questions, including some joint production plans, reduction of trade barriers, convertibility of currencies, and certain limited international hydro-electric development schemes with which officials are competent to deal with the minimum of guidance from their Governments. But there is an upper limit at which the necessary decisions can only be made by fully responsible Ministers meeting in conference. Some portentous phrases have been used in connection with this conference. There has been talk of a European customs union, of a continental electrical grid and of the integration of Europe for the purposes of economic reconstruction. Such ques- tions cannot be settled in a matter of weeks in any case, and they cannot be settled at all by a conference of officials, however able they may be. Nor is it likely that Mr. Marshall had any such ambitious ideas in mind when he called for evidence of Europe's will to self-help. There is even some doubt as to whether he ex- pected from this conference any permanent plan for the future of German industry. There is a limit to what can be done in two months, and it would be a pity if, in their zeal to follow Mr. Marshall's lead, the countries of Europe should overreach themselves. If the representatives now in Paris can produce an orderly and feasible statement of needs together with some convincing evidence of ability to expand and distribute Europe's indigenous resources, they can with a good conscience leave th.e presentation of this material in an imaginative form to a final session at which the Ministers of the countries concerned get together once more. Then the ball will be at Mr. Marshall's feet.