‘British foreign policy’, Foreign Office brief, January 1968

Permanent Under-Secretary’s Steering Committee, ‘British Foreign Policy: Brief by the Foreign Office’, 26 January 1968

This long report is a briefing for the Foreigh Secretary’s forthcoming talks in Washington. It notes that the primary goal of British foreign policy is to make Britain economically strong, which was the reason for deciding to withdraw military forces from ‘East of Suez’. It continues:

“Positively, it demands that we should bend our energies to help to produce a world economic climate in which our external trade, our income from invisibles and our balance of payments can prosper. This demands that we should support and, where appropriate, initiate measures for freer and more expanded world trade, for tariff reductions, for the reduction of non-tariff barriers, for greater international liquidity and for satisfactory solutions to problems of international indebtedness, including that of the sterling balances… Although our entry into the European Communities has been blocked for the time being we must continue to develop our markets there, while increasing our efforts to open up new markets and making the best of existing opportunities elsewhere eg in Latin America, parts of the Far East such as Thailand, and indeed wherever devaluation has given us real competitive advantages. Negatively, we should for the time being adopt a ‘heads down’ attitude in regard to proposals which, however desirable in themselves, would throw a significantly greater strain upon our balance of payments, eg commodity schemes directed primarily to raise prices rather than at stability of markets”.

“We should work to harmonise US and European policies but so long as the objectives are in harmony we need not be shy about forward on the merits of the case different means of attaining them… We must ensure that our aid programme supports not only the developmental needs of recipient countries but also our own commercial and foreign policies… Wherever possible we should try to shape our aid programme to fit more appropriately the pattern of our trade and investment interests in different countries”.

Source: National Archives, FCO 49/13




1 comment

  1. Susil Gupta says:

    The most significant thing about this foreign policy assessment is how unremarkable it is. It is a general statement of ‘minding our interests’ as the basis of foreign policy which any developed nation at any time in its history would espouse. How could it be otherwise? Does anyone seriously expect that a foreign policy statement would ‘we should be nice to others because we want to be known as nicer people’?

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