Before It Was The EU, It Was The Common Market – 1961
With all the events in recent days over Brexit, and all the questions going along with it, it’s interesting to note that the EU has had a history. One that goes back to the Post-World War 2 period of 1947 and evolving into what it became in the 1970s. Starting largely as a reaction to the Cold War, partly as a way of preventing another War in Europe, but mostly as a way of achieving economic stability; the Paris Conference of 1947, eventually paved the way for a Common Market by way of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 – those countries in Europe banded together by way of free trade and mutual support for common ideals, the Common Market was primarily made up of countries on Continental Europe; Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Absent were the UK, Ireland, Denmark and those countries known as the Eastern Bloc. Britain had initially declined to join, but changed its mind when the Common Market became a huge success. After being denied admission several times, due to the objections of Charles DeGaulle, the UK did become a member in 1973. Eventually, the Common Market gave way to the European Union and membership grew quickly.
But in 1961, the U.S. was very much involved in the outcome of the Common Market – and it had its share of worries. Cheaper goods, cheaper labor and an atmosphere where American made goods were no longer as attractive as they once were caused a sense of worry among members of Congress and the Labor Unions, as well as a rise in unemployment. Even the auto industry was beginning to feel the presence of ominous dark clouds, as the popularity of smaller compact cars grew, to the dismay of Detroit.
It was a changing world – and what had began as a way of creating post-War stability and an assurance that war in Europe was a thing of the past, became a powerful force in the world economics.
This episode of the Sunday talk program The Leading Question from CBS Radio, originally aired on November 12, 1961, tackles many of those issues, and the debate over the Common Market and its affect on American economy gets a little testy at times. But it was a real concern – maybe not to the average American consumer – not yet, in the early 1960s, but it was looming and it was one more element in what became part of the big change that took place in the 1960s.
To get an idea what the Common Market was all about, at least from an American perspective, here is that episode of The Leading Question, featuring Charles P. Taft, general counsel for the Committee for National Trade Policy and Oscar Strackbein, chairman of the nationwide Committee on Import/Export Policy.