270 Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram 359 LONDON, 25 May 1946, 4.46 p.m.


1. At the Meeting yesterday [1] the text of final communiquereports of which you will have seen was agreed.

2. The main discussion was on proposed Commercial talks and proposal that emerged was that there be Commonwealth talks in the first week of October immediately prior to the meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the Economic and Social Council at present scheduled for 15th October. Nash finds this inconvenient and will have some discussions while here but will also send officials to the Commonwealth talks. It is understood that the Preparatory Committee will be dealing only with non-tariff matters and that therefore the Commonwealth discussions will have similar content. I indicated that we may wish for informal discussions at some other time and that provided these Commonwealth discussions were regarded as informal with no publicity we would not object.

3. Smuts raised the general question of imperial preference without expressing any views. Bevin, Addison and Morrison outlined their attitude by reference to Bevin's statement of 6th December, 1945. [2] Liesching informed us Bevin's statement was made after consultation with U.S. and therefore must be regarded as an interpretation of United Kingdom obligations under the Mutual Aid Agreement.

4. I made a brief statement based on your telegrams and public statement of November and December. [3] Bevin and Attlee are in full accord with thesis that we must receive tangible advantages in exchange for the giving up of any existing rights. Nash described the New Zealand System of perfect discrimination in favour of the United Kingdom, general commitments of general agreement with your views expressed and Attlee said no commitments of any kind existed. I pointed out the United States arrangement with the Philippines and suggested that this could be used as a strong argument to retain the system of Empire preferences as desired.

5. Addison raised the matter of Commonwealth Communications and referred to previous Imperial Conference resolutions regarding the exchange of information. [4] He expressed the view that no changes in the existing system were necessary and this was met with agreement from all. I made comments suggesting importance of early information on matters of direct concern to us and congratulated Addison on the way the Labour Government had kept us informed since coming into office.

6. You will be glad at the general feeling of satisfaction over the Conferences. In the course of a statement I issued in London I said: 'Mr. Chifley, the Australian Prime Minister took a prominent part in the early stages of the discussions until his departure from London, and the feeling of solidarity and comradeship which became clearly evident in those first weeks marked the whole course of the talks.' 7. I expect to leave here tomorrow for New York and we both send our affectionate greetings.

1 i.e. the Nineteenth Meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

2 The reference was in fact to a statement by Attlee in the House of Commons on the U.S. Loan Agreement. He had given an assurance that there was '. . . no question of any unilateral surrender of preferences. There must be adequate compensation for all parties affected'.

3 Evatt referred to Australia's refusal to be associated with the U.S. Govt's Proposals for the Expansion of World Trade and Employment, 6 December 1945, and its insistence an approaching the negotiations with complete freedom of action (Volume Vill, Documents 374 and 391) and to Chifley's public statement on 7 December 1945 that Australia would enter into discussions without obligation and that any concessions must be reciprocal.

4 The arrangements for Commonwealth consultation were based upon resolutions of the Imperial Conferences of 1926 and 1930. All governments were to be kept informed of negotiations undertaken by any one government and any other interested government was to express its views promptly. No government was to take foreign policy action involving another in active obligations without that other government's definite assent.