On 4 December 1945 Monnet, who as head of the French Supply Commission coordinated imports from the United States to France under the Lend-Lease program, submitted to General Charles de Gaulle, head of the provisional French government, a set of proposals to modernize and rebuild the French economy. The memorandum urged the linking of reconstruction to modernization, with the ultimate goal of raising the French standard of living and securing France a place in international affairs. Modernizing would entail raising productivity in both industry and agriculture through improved production methods and better equipment. The proposal also urged the coordination of previously existing plans that covered individual sectors of industry. Moreover, it demanded the collaboration of workers, citizens, and industrialists.
Following adoption of Monnet's proposals by the French Council of Ministers, an executive order of 3 January 1946 authorized the establishment of the Commissariat Général du Plan (Planning Commission) and the committees of modernization that were attached directly to the head of government. Vertical committees were set up by sectors (e.g., iron and steel), and horizontal committees were established to troubleshoot specific problems (e.g., labor). Upon its establishment, Monnet became the head of the Commissariat. The newly established commissions prepared the first plan in 1946, and it was adopted by the Council of Ministers on 14 January 1947.
Numerous past French projects had involved economic planning in the interwar period. Only in the 1940s, however, did plans take the form of documents outlining objectives and the means to achieve them. The Monnet Plan combined the economic traditions of liberalism with those of central planning. The reconstruction of a neoliberal economic order relied on the power of the state. Although political groups in postwar France agreed on the necessity for economic recovery, they disagreed on the strategies to achieve it. Acceptance of the Monnet Plan was dependent not so much on domestic economic necessities but rather on the French government's foreign economic objectives within Europe, especially vis-à-vis Germany. The French government considered Germany's economic weakness vital to the successful restoration of France's economic and political strength in Europe. Paris considered unrestricted access to the coal and coke resources of the Ruhr as critical to jump-starting French steel production. In this way, the Monnet Plan was a forerunner of the 1950 Schuman Plan and the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which were designed to carefully monitor the economic power of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany).
From its inception, the Monnet Plan anticipated American funding. Hence, approval of the plan by U.S. policymakers was critical to its realization. Previous professional commitments, among them his collaboration with the Lend-Lease administration, had helped Monnet create a network of contacts with U.S. politicians and administrators. Assuming a prime role in the bilateral French-American talks that resulted in the Blum-Byrnes Accords (May 1946), Monnet promoted his modernization plan in Washington. For President Harry Truman's administration, the restoration and modernization of France was part of the larger economic reconstruction of a democratic and capitalist Western Europe that they hoped to enlist in the fight against Soviet communism. The Truman administration, initially concerned with the plan's prioritization of heavy industry and its neglect of financial and monetary stability, endorsed the plan after timetable adjustments and the inclusion of financial considerations had been made.
The Monnet Plan met almost all its goals, thanks in large part to Marshall Plan assistance. The Monnet Plan restored French economic confidence and encouraged the private sector to invest in new, more modern enterprises. The lessons of the plan proved essential to Monnet and his advisors in conceiving the Schuman Plan declaration of 9 May 1950, which paved the way to the founding of the ECSC.
Duignan, Peter, and L. H. Gann. The United States and the New Europe, 1945–1993. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1994.; Fontaine, Pascal. Jean Monnet: A Grand Design for Europe. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 1988.; Mioche, Philippe. Le Plan Monnet: Genèse et élaboration, 1941–1947. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1987.