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

By William Diebold Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO WHY WESTERN EUROPE?

IT IS no mystery how the OEEC came to be, or why a certain 18 countries and not others pledged themselves to cooperate for recovery. One could argue at length about the suitability of this grouping. Are the historical and contemporary ties that bind these countries of Western Europe--a "Western Europe" that omits Spain but reaches out to include Greece and Turkey-stronger than the differences that distinguish and the conflicts that divide them? Is the pragmatic sanction that brings them together strong enough to overcome the deficiencies of the area as a "natural region"--a term of dubious economic significance? If we set aside these issues, and take the grouping as it is, the question remains: Will cooperation on trade and payments among the OEEC countries alone necessarily make it easier for each of them to become self-supporting at the highest level of production, consumption and investment it can afford? The answer to this question is not a flat yes or no; it is a series of "iffy" propositions.

There is no question of autarky. No one has proposed that Western Europe should live alone and like it. Most of the countries in the area depend on an active foreign trade, with one another and with the rest of the world. Regional autarky would mean a sharp fall in living standards; even if it were technologically possible to provide the equivalent of contemporary living standards through the use of substitutes and synthetics, the task would take many years. But the issue is not a real one. On the contrary, one of the strongest arguments advanced in favor of intensive economic cooperation among the countries of Western Europe is that it will

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