Trade and Payments in Western Europe: A Study in Economic Cooperation, 1947-51

By William Diebold Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
THE OEEC'S TRADE LIBERALIZATION PROGRAM

FACED with the complex of intra-European trade barriers, the OEEC countries decided to center their attack on import quotas. This choice was justified by several considerations. Quotas accounted for most of the postwar increase in trade barriers. Because they limit absolutely the amount of goods that may be imported, quotas are more rigid and usually more restrictive than tariffs. Unless a large part of the European quota structure could be removed, there could be no effective mutual aid through economic cooperation and no advance toward economic integration or the creation of a single market for Western Europe. Finally, many quotas had been introduced to deal with postwar difficulties that were being overcome as European recovery proceeded, so there were tactical advantages in clearing away this deadwood to prevent its becoming permanently imbedded in Europe's economic structure.

In the fall of 1949 the OEEC called on member countries to remove quotas on half their 1948 trade with one another. As time passed the proportion was raised until it stood at 75 percent in the spring of 1951. Creation of the EPU made it possible to establish the principle of equal treatment among OEEC countries in the application of quota restrictions. None of these measures was effortless, several of them were not completely successful. Some countries had special difficulties, all retained a number of quotas. To make possible further progress in the removal of trade barriers, Dirk Stikker, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands and Chairman of the OEEC Council, proposed drastic new measures. If successfully car

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