NOVEMBER 24, 1959
NEW YORK—It is interesting to read that, after long negotiation, the so-called Outer Seven countries in Europe—Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal—have formed a limited free trade group. And in announcing its agreement this group says it hopes its formation will be a step toward an overall agreement with the 18 members of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation.
There already exists a six-nation group, which is a European Common Market bloc. The members of this union are West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The new Outer Seven group will put into effect tariff agreements among themselves in July and will continue to lower tariffs at regular intervals if their agreement is ratified by their several parliaments before the end of March. They will, however, each have the right as individual nations to order their own agreements with outside countries, whereas the smaller group of six—the Common Market bloc—has made an agreement that covers them all as regards their outside connections.
Finland is negotiating at present a trade treaty with the Soviet Union. It has suggested that she would like to discuss tariffs with the new Outer Seven when this Russian agreement is settled, but that may take some time.
A very important happening took place in the United Nations this past week. A resolution, sponsored by Asian and African nations expressing "grave concern," asked France to refrain from her projected nuclear tests in the Sahara Desert. The vote was 51 to 16, with 15 abstentions, which gave the resolution more than the two-thirds margin of those voting on the proposal. According to General Assembly rules, abstentions and absentees are not counted toward the total.
It is not astonishing to find grave concern about these tests. And though it is quite understandable that France should want to prove the ability of her scientists and to join the number of nations in what is usually called the "Nuclear Club," it is still sad that she feels it necessary to do so.
When we are hoping for complete disarmament, this seems like a step that does not serve those aims. Of course, complete disarmament is a long way off, and a great nation wants to be on an equal footing in every way with her colleagues, so I suppose France will feel it is essential to be equal in this as well as in all other ways.
The general disarmament resolution which the United States and the Soviet Union agreed on, also in the U.N., seems to me a pleasant gesture. But there are so many things to be faced before anything can be worked out that I cannot feel that complete disarmament is anywhere near. Nevertheless, each step forward is something gained.