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Socialist Countries Face the European Community

Soviet-Bloc Controversies over East-West Trade

Suvi Kansikas

In the early 1970s, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) began to revise its trade policy towards the outside world. It needed to counter the European Community’s bid to implement its Common Commercial Policy and thereby change East-West trade practices. Foreign trade priorities became at once a crucial issue on the socialist countries’ political agenda. The key question was whether they would have to open their system to the global economy – and bear the consequent pressures and competition that this decision entailed. Based on newly declassified archival sources, this study shows how the East European states were able to lobby their positions towards the USSR within the CMEA. The pressure from its allies forced the Soviet leadership to accept the CMEA’s opening towards the EC.
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The CMEA concedes to economic realities


In 1974, the CMEA celebrated its 25th anniversary. Five years earlier, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary, the organization had launched its integration process, which culminated in 1971 with the adoption of the Comprehensive Programme. By 1974, CMEA countries had made some progress in their cooperation plans. They had established a new international bank and three international organizations. Considerable efforts had also been put into the coordination of national plans. In 1972 Cuba had joined the organization, which expanded the CMEA’s geographical scope to a new continent. In 1973 it had concluded its first cooperation agreement with a capitalist country, Finland, which opened the possibility to attract more international recognition.

The most worrisome of the issues on CMEA’s external policy had been settled as it adopted a policy towards the EC and had taken the first step to initiate a dialogue with it. At the start of 1974, the CMEA was waiting for a reply from the EC Council of Ministers to the proposal made by CMEA Secretary Faddeev during the previous August. Besides hoping to begin organization-to-organization level talks, the CMEA countries were engaged in negotiations at the CSCE, which had progressed to the next stage. The Multilateral Preparatory Talks (MPT) had started in November 1972, and in July 1973, the first phase of the CSCE adopted the Blue Book. The second phase had begun in Geneva in September 1973.

CMEA accepts EC demands

At the start of 1974, the...

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