The European Productivity Agency and Transatlantic Relations, 1953-1961

Synopsis

The EPA was created in 1953 as a semi-autonomous organisation within the framework of the Organisation for European Economic Co-Operation and wound up eight years later, in 1961, when the US and Canada joined the OEEC countries and founded the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. The EPA was the product of American ideas, actions and money. It embodied the merger of two main US foreign policy goals after World War II, increasing productivity and furthering integration among the countries of Western Europe. The agency was conceived as a major instrument for the 'politics of productivity' which would enable Western European societies to overcome their social and political problems resulting from scarcity, particularly in countries such as France. During its short-lived existence the EPA acted as an operational arm of the OEEC, accounting on average for over 40 percent of the overall OEEC expenditures. It implemented a vast array of activities aimed at improving productivity in industry, commerce, agriculture and distribution. Many of its projects met with contrasted reactions and thus highlighted conflicts between trade unions and employers, differences amongst the OEEC countries as well as transatlantic squabbles. The EPA was designed as a means to 'Americanise' Western Europe through the transfer of American techniques, know-how and ideas to the Old Continent. It increasingly became a framework within which the member countries sought 'European' solutions to their problems. This study sheds new light on the nature of European co-operation and transatlantic relations in the I950s as well as on the changes these relations underwent. Bent Boel, is Assistant Professor, Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies, University of Aalborg.