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

By William Diebold Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
THE EUROPEAN CUSTOMS UNION STUDY GROUP

IF ALL the barriers to intra-European trade were removed, Western Europe would become the "single market" that Paul Hoffman talked about in his "integration speech." If the tariffs, quotas, and exchange controls regulating imports into this single market from the rest of the world differed from country to country, Western Europe would be a "free trade area." If these tariffs and trade controls were made uniform, so that, for instance, American goods paid the same duty in Norway as in England and Portugal, Western Europe would be a "customs union." That this is a most unlikely eventuality will be plain to anyone who has read the preceding chapters. But as an ideal, or as a goal to strive for, it has been attractive to many people. "A European customs union," said a French economist, "is a march toward the stars. It is an ideal so high that it may be just as inaccessible as the stars, but so luminous that it lights the long and difficult road Europe must follow to avoid disaster."1

The possibility of forming a European customs union has been explored tentatively by a Study Group created at the outset of the Marshall Plan. The Study Group has also done some technical preparatory work but there has been no serious effort to bring all the countries of Western Europe together in a customs union. The initial Marshall Plan conference set in motion several sets of negotiations aimed at creating smaller customs unions: between France and Italy, among the three Scandinavian countries, and between Greece

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1
Unidentified French economist quoted by Yves Mancel, L'Union Douanière ou le Mariage des Nations ( Paris: Hermann & Cie, Editeurs, 1949) 18.

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