26 JANUARY 1962, Page 30

Transatlantic Europeans

By RICHARD BAILEY THE clock-stopping activities of the Six and the controversy over British membership of the Common Market have distracted attention from Mr. Kennedy's highly successful incursions into European affairs. The most formal of these is America's full membership of the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is the successor to the OEEC, which for the twelve years up to 1960 was the European organisation that successive British governments most wanted to succeed. The Free Trade Area project was the last attempt to widen European economic co-operation from a six- to an eighteen-nation basis. Once this had failed there seemed no good reason for anybody to put very much steam behind their support of OEEC.

At this point, however, the Americans, who had started OEEC to give away US dollars in the form of Marshall Aid, suddenly woke up to the fact that a balance of payments deficit cannot be given away to undeveloped countries. From across the Atlantic the conspicuously prosperous Europeans looked natural burden- sharers. It therefore came about that the United States, having started the OEEC to hand out its own money, took the lead in setting up the OECD in the hope that it would give away European money.

The Convention setting up the OECD was signed in Paris in December, 1960. Its members are the eighteen former OEEC members plus the United States and Canada. It sets broad policy guide lines for the member governments who pledged themselves to do three things. First, they undertook to achieve 'the highest sustain,able economic growth and employment and a rising standard of living,' while maintaining financial stability. Second, they agreed to follow expan- sionist economic policies not only at home but in their dealings with the undeveloped countries. And, thirdly, they affirmed that they would work for the expansion of world trade on 'a multi- lateral, non-discriminating basis.' _

The Secretary-General of OECD charged with the implementation of these objectives is Mr. Thorkil Kristensen, a former Danish Minister of Finance. He works under the direction of a Council of Ministers with the help of a network of committees, of which two—the Economic Policy Committee and the Development Assis- tance Committee (successor to the Development Assistance Group)—are the most important. For the first months of its life it looked as though nothing short of a miracle would have brought OECD to life. The Château de la Muette was for a time one of the most depressing places in Paris. Top officials whose jobs had disappeared in the change-over moved sadly along the cor- ridors clearing, up before going. Old hands talked gloomily of the good old days in the early 1950s when all the key economic questions were settled at OEEC meetings. Many of the officials taking over new posts felt that Paris had been bypassed and that everything that mattered—in a European sense—was now hap- pening in Brussels. There was talk of merging the OECD with the Council of Europe in the hope of tempting back-bench politicians to take an interest in its affairs. This proposal did not arouse any •great enthusiasm, however, partly because of the somewhat unspectacular results so far achieved at Strasbourg, but more par- ticularly because the Americans would not play. The wisdom of Congressmen from the Bible Belt seems to be one export the administration is not at all anxious to encourage.

In the past six months a great change has come over the OECD. There are two reasons for this. One is the forthright personality of Mr.

Kristensen, a man who brings the intellectual attitudes of the academic economist rather than the politician to bear on the problems facing OECD. The other is the idea of the Atlantic Community which was given a prominent place in Mr. Kennedy's State of the Union message.

The concept', of the Atlantic Community was pioneered, like so many key ideas in US policy,

by the Committee for Economic Development.

It expresses not only the need for freer trade between the US and a Common Market which

includes Britain.. but also the fundamental need for the West to be united in its dealings both with the undeveloped countries and with the Eastern

bloc. Mr. Kennedy's policy for tariff reductions, essential to the American half of the Atlantic Community, will meet bitter opposition in Con- gress. The connection of the Atlantic Com- munity with OECD is still somewhat speculative. No one is writing Wive OECD' on Parisian walls. All the same, there are indications that better, times are coming for the inhabitants of the Chateau de la Muette. The Americans are taking their membership very seriously indeed. Their delegation, led by Mr. John W. Tuthill, is alert and well informed. Its biggest success so far was to persuade the administration to take up a proposal put up by Mr. Ochrent, the head of the Belgian delegation, for setting growth targets for OECD. This idea was. immediately adopted and Mr. George Ball arrived in Paris with a proposal for a 50 per cent., increase in the gross national product of OECD by 1970. The British Government, with its sights down at a 2.5 per cent. annual rate, was not surpris- ingly somewhat dubious about its prospects of hitting this particular target. However, the pro- posal was adopted as an aggregate for the twenty members on the no doubt well-founded assump- tion that those countries, achieving above-target performances would make up for those that did not.

The behaviour of Americans in Paris is tradi- lionally untypical of the pattern back home. This is no doubt partly true of OECD delegations. Nevertheless, what has happened in the past six months has shown that the United States is aware that an Atlantic Community must have a strong European component. This means hav- ing some acceptable organisation in which all members can meet as equals and work for com- mon ends. Before the OECD or any other body becomes the chosen instrument of the Atlantic Community Mr. Kennedy has to get his liberal tariff policy through Congress. And although this will take time the signs are that the Ameri- cans can see their way ahead pretty clearly. In fact, it almost looks as though the best kind of European ideas just now are coming from the New World.