chapter  I
55 Pages

The Crisis of 1947

The impact which high investment ratios had on western Europe's import trade in the circumstances of the post-war world can be seen from the example of France. The French government twice drew up import projections in 1 946 to cover the period to the end of 1 950 and did so in the full knowledge that the import programmes would present difficult payments problems . They never­ theless still estimated, in each case, the proportion of capital goods in total imports at between 22 and 23 per cent. This implied a far higher proportion of capital goods as a proportion of total imports from the United States than before the war. In spring 1 946 it was estimated that for the period 1 946--9 they might constitute 33 . 8 per cent of all imports from the United States .32 In the event in 1 947 capital goods and metals accounted for 29 .5 per cent of all French imports from the United States , as opposed to 1 8 . 7 per cent in 1 938 . Imports o f the same commodities a s a proportion o f total imports were 14 . 8 per cent in 1 947 as opposed to 9 . 1 per cent in 1 938 . Almost 60. 0 per cent of all capital goods and metals imported into France in 1 947 came from America.33 Imports of machinery and transport equipment into the Netherlands , as a proportion of all imports by value, averaged 10 .6 per cent in 1937/8 ; they were 1 3 . 6 per cent in 1 946 and 1 7 .6 per cent in 1 94 7. 34

To put the matter in a different focus, it is only necessary to consider that in 1 947 2 . 2 million gross tons of new shipping were being built in Europe, that the maximum permitted output of the German steel industry was 5 . 8 million tonnes of crude steel a year, and that the actual production of crude steel in the three western occupation zones was less than half that quantity. In 1 937, when there had been a roughly comparable level of new shipping construction in Europe, the German steel industry had produced 1 5 . 96 million tonnes of crude steel . In that same year, when capital investment had been a smaller proportion of national income, almost everywhere the German machine building and machine-tool industry had been the second largest in the world with the second highest level of exports ; in 1 947 it scarcely existed . Even when the Nazi government had passed the bounds of alltoleration and most European countries were committed to high levels of machine-tool imports to rearm against it, imports of capital goods by Western European countries from Germany were still more than those from America and Britain combined . They amounted to $939 million, whereas the total value from the United States was only $497 million . lt was not that America's financial provision for European recovery after 1 945 was inadequate . It was inadequate for the policies which western European countries pursued. And these were startlingly different from those of 1 920, and in less propitious circumstances .