The United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, the Common Market, and the United States
A prime objective of United States commercial policy before, during, and after World War II has been to end the British Commonwealth system of preferential trade, which was firmly established and extended in the Ottawa Agreements of 1932. In trade agreements with the United Kingdom and Canada during the 1930's, though the United States succeeded in reducing a few preferences, the principle of preferences was not breached. In the postwar General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), preferences were not to be expanded, but existing ones were excepted from the most-favored-nation (MFN) clause. Some of these preferences were reduced or eliminated in GATT negotiations at Geneva in 1947 and subsequently, but many remain. If the United Kingdom should accede to the European Economic Community (EEC), it would lay to rest the system of Commonwealth preferences. The attraction of preferential trade with continental Europe will have succeeded in doing what the United States failed to accomplish during three decades of persistent efforts.
This chapter is concerned with the question of Britain's joining the EEC, the customs part of which is frequently referred to as the Common Market. It discusses (1) the general background of the EEC and the Commonwealth; (2) various factors involved in United Kingdom accession to the EEC; (3) the status of the negotiations for Britain's accession; (4) the relevance of United States trade legislation; and (5) some conclusions. It is not so directly related to United States commercial policy as the preceding chapters. It would be difficult, however, to overestimate the importance of these European developments for this policy and for other United States economic and political interests.*____________________