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Anglo-Soviet Trade Talks

Volume 437: debated on Monday 12 May 1947

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asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is in a position to make a statement about the recent visit of the Secretary for Overseas Trade to the U.S.S.R. to discuss the development of trade between the U.S.S.R. and the United Kingdom.

The trade discussions which began in Moscow three weeks ago had three main objectives, namely, to see what each country could do in the immediate future towards meeting the other's most pressing shortages, to explore the possibilities of developing trade in the longer term on a mutually advantageous basis and to find solutions for certain procedural problems which are at present impeding trade between the two countries.The Russian Government informed me that, while their timber industry had suffered great devastation as a result of the war and their own needs for timber for internal reconstruction were very great, they planned, subject to obtaining certain machinery and transport equipment, to have available for export in 1947 moderate quantities of timber and timber products with the expectation of steadily increasing supplies in subsequent years. They also planned for a very considerable disposable surplus of foodstuffs, particularly wheat and coarse grains, starting from next year. In order to prepare and move the timber to the ports, the Russian Government said that certain equipment would be required for the mechanisation of their timber industry. I was able to inform them about the prospects of supplies from the United Kingdom and I undertook to examine further on my return the Russian list of requirements with a view to making the maximum contribution towards meeting their needs.As regards the development of Anglo-Soviet trade in the longer term, useful information was obtained about the sort of goods which Russia wishes to buy from the United Kingdom during the next few years. We also had discussions about certain other commodities which the United Kingdom is in a position to export and which we thought would provide the basis for an expanding trade between the two countries. We emphasised the importance for the development of trade relations between the two countries of Russia accepting the general terms and conditions of contract on which our firms are accustomed to do business with the rest of the world.The Russian Government expressed the view that a healthy development of Anglo-Soviet trade would not be possible unless some further adjustment of the terms of the credits advanced under the Civil Supplies Agreement of 1941 were made and that any general agreement about the development of trade between the two countries should be linked with an agreement on the credit question. As this matter was outside the range of questions that it had been arranged to discuss in Moscow, we informed them that it should, if they desired, be taken up through diplomatic channels and to this procedure they agreed.I should add that the conversations, which took place in an atmosphere of great friendliness and frankness on both sides, ranged over a wide field and were most useful in clarifying the respective points of view of the two Governments. Both sides expressed their very keen desire for a substantial expansion of the volume of trade between the two countries. It was arranged that the discussions should be continued in London with a view to finding a basis on which a definitive agreement could be prepared.