5 DECEMBER 1952, Page 1

Commonwealth Conclusions

At this stage of the Commonwealth Economic Conference the public expects no more than it is in fact getting—a series of short statements revealing only that the Minis- ters are meeting and that they are discussing finance, trade, development and commodity policy. But in the case of this particular conference there is a hope, which has never been so strongly marked before, that conclusions can be expressed, when the time comes, in precise terms. In the past all parties have generally been satisfied that Commonwealth conferences should end with statements of harmony, unaccompanied by binding agreements—the assumption being that understanding between the member countries was already so close and cordial that written commitments might be more of a hindrance than a help,. It was also understood at the time of the last conference, in January of this year, that in a time of general economic emergency each of the parties must be free to act quickly in its own interest. But even so the Australian decision, very shortly after that meeting, to make drastic cuts in its sterling imports, came as a considerable shock to this country. It is art experience which should not be repeated if it can possibly be avoided. This conference has been much more carefully prepared by officials than any of its recent predecessors. The atmosphere of crisis which was present last January has been largely dispelled. The desirability of moving towards dollar- sterling convertibility is clearer now than it was then. And if it turns out that the Commonwealth countries are willing to move more rapidly in that direction then it is most necessary that the exact terms and conditions in which the move is to be made should be as clearly stated as possible. The

dollar problem is a common problem and it does not admit of vague and contradictory answers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has often said that the strength of sterling must be maintained, and the closest possible agreement between the countries of the Commonwealth is obviously necessary to its maintenance.