Courtesy Reuters

East-West Trade and the Marshall Plan

IS "Europe" to become only a geographical expression? The great diagonal from Stettin to Trieste splits national policies as well as a continent. Governments are forced to recognize a Western Europe which they treat differently from Eastern Europe. The pull and the push of Moscow and Washington increase the division and sharpen the differences. Since the Marshall Plan has become a program of Western European reconstruction, it inevitably widens the gap in some ways. At the same time, the Plan postulates some crossing of the great diagonal and some of its effects may bridge the gap. The most clear-cut of these features is the resumption of large-scale commerce between the eastern and the western countries of Europe, on which the program is premised.

In 1938 the 12 principal countries of Western Europe that are participating in the Marshall Plan got about 5.5 percent of their imports from the seven Eastern European countries now in the Soviet orbit.[i] Two-fifths of this $523,000,000 worth of goods went to the United Kingdom, amounting to about 5 percent of total British imports. Switzerland took about 10 percent of its total imports from the east, and Italy 12 percent, the largest share for any of the 12 western countries. France took only $43,000,000 worth of goods from the eastern countries, or 3.2 percent of its total imports.[ii] The U.S.S.R. and the three Baltic States sent $228,000,000 worth of goods to the western nations in 1938, about 2.4 percent of their total imports.

It would be easy, arguing from these general figures, to dismiss the significance of eastern trade to the western countries. However, most of the imports from the east were concentrated in a few lines of considerable importance to the economies of the west. Wheat, meat, other food products, timber from Finland and Russia, and Polish coal were the major items; others of importance were Rumanian oil, some minerals, especially from Jugoslavia, and Czechoslovak manufactures.

Turned around, the figures tell a different story. The western countries accounted for a much greater proportion of the trade

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