This post concludes an e-mail interview I had with Cyro Franklin de Andrade, editor of the Brazilian magazine Valor econômico. The first part is in a previous post. Questions are in italics, answers are in Roman (regular) type.
8. You say that “talented delegates played important roles out of proportion of the small size of their countries”. Could you please elaborate on this?
The European countries at the conference except for the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom were all under German occupation. The delegates from those countries represented governments in exile, which had no domestic political power. In addition, many of them were from countries that, even after the war ended, could not be expected to have great importance to the world economy. Even so, because of their keen intellects, delegates from Greece (Kryiaks Varvaressos), Norway (Wilhelm Keilhau), and Czechoslovakia (Ervin Hexner) had important jobs as committee “reporters” (who summarized events in lower-level committees to the higher-level “commissions”). They also were active in debate as delegates of their countries, and they influenced the opinions of the other delegates. From Latin America, Luis Machado of Cuba was also such a delegate.
9. Another criticism is that the Americans and the British sought to avoid voting, preferring to seek decisions by consensus. It would be a way of avoiding the influence of Latin American countries, which represented more than half of the countries and could form majority with the support of only a few Europeans. Is this true? Can it be perceived in the transcripts?
The delegates understood that deciding important questions strictly by votes, rather than by first achieving consensus, would be counterproductive, and there is discussion of that point in the transcripts. Most of the capital for the IMF and World Bank would come from the largest economies, which could refuse to participate if outvoted at the conference by the smaller economies. On the other hand, the large economies understood that the small economies could equally refuse to participate if the large economies tried to dictate matters. So, it was clear that without a consensus across the large and small economies alike, the IMF and World Bank would not be the truly worldwide institutions that the countries participating wanted them to be. The conference was a first step in seeing whether consensus could be achieved. It was, and after the IMF and World Bank began operations, they operated, and to a large extent have continued to operate, on the basis of consensus.
10. The method of avoiding votes by pausing for objections has been attributed to Keynes, and sometimes very briefly indeed, avoiding the hazard of debate. Is this true? Is this apparent from the transcripts?
Keynes was eager to move quickly. The IMF was the top priority of the Bretton Woods conference. Until just before the conference, it was uncertain whether an agreement on the World Bank was even possible. The conference focused on the IMF in its first days, and did almost nothing concerning the World Bank until halfway through the conference. Ultimately, the important issues concerning the World Bank do seem to have been debated, but unfortunately no transcripts of those meetings exist.
11. Committee 3, on “Organization and Management of the Fund”, was chaired by Arthur de Souza Costa, Brazil’s Minister of Finance. Why was he chosen for this task? Is there any special detail you would like to mention on how Souza Costa has acted in this role?
The organizers of the conference wanted broad participation, not domination by a few countries. They were careful to ensure that important jobs, such as committee chairmanships, were distributed among many countries. Therefore Brazil, which was already a large economy among what we would today call the emerging markets, was almost certain to receive one of the important jobs. Arthur de Souza Costa was the leader of the Brazilian delegation, experienced in financial matters, and spoke good English, the official language of the conference.
As the chairman of Committee 3, my impression is that he had a “light touch” as chairman: he kept the committee on schedule but was content to let the more active delegates and the committee’s “reporter,” Ervin Hexner of Czechoslovakia, shape the debate.
As you may be aware, in late 1944, after returning to Brazil, de Souza Costa gave a speech that was published as a pamphlet, Bretton Woods e o Brasil. Unfortunately–from my perspective–it says very little about his personal experiences at the Bretton Woods conference; it is mainly about the rationale for the IMF and the World Bank. Perhaps there is material in Brazilian archives and personal papers from such people as him, Roberto Campos, Eugênio Gudin, or Francisco Alves dos Santo-Filho that a Brazilian researcher could use to deepen our knowledge about the conference.