Mobilization of Private Capital
A problem that affected the Allied Powers in particular was how to pay for the purchase of increased quantities of essential foreign products at a time when their export business had fallen off sharply. Both France and Britain had invested huge amounts of capital in overseas territories before the war. By 1914 British-held foreign assets, it is estimated, were worth about 4 billion pounds, while the figure for France in the same year was about 45 billion francs.1 Certainly not all of these vast amounts were or could have been liquidated to provide foreign exchange for purchases abroad, but both countries did draw on this reserve. The liquidation of foreign-held assets combined with the great increase in foreign indebtedness substantially reduced the net British overseas investment and converted France into a debtor nation. The selection that follows represents the important articles of the French decree establishing the machinery for tapping the resource of private foreign investments.