Notes (extract) [GENEVA], 28 May 1947
Dr. Coombs reported that his visit to Australia had been most satisfactory and that he had discussed at meetings of the Interdepartmental Committee and the Cabinet sub-committee matters arising under the Charter and the problems arising from the absence of a U.S.A. offer on wool duties. A series of cables will be sent from Australia concerning these discussions.
Dr. Coombs said that the attitude of Cabinet to the absence of an offer on wool is just as serious as the Delegation had anticipated. The Prime Minister had said that the U.S.A.
Delegation should be informed that neither his Government nor any other could secure acceptance of the Charter and Tariff Agreements without a substantial concession on wool and the Australian Delegation must make quite clear that there is no compromise on this attitude.
Dr. Coombs said that it was not clear what should be done if the negotiations do break down. Originally it had been thought that if after the return of Clayton', there is no concession offered on wool, Mr. Dedman would come to Geneva and withdraw the Delegation, but the question has now been left open. Dr. Evatt's view is that Australia should not withdraw from the Conference but continue fighting the case and that finally, the Cabinet should decide, after the Conference, whether or not it will accept the Charter and any Tariff Agreements. The Delegation, however, should continue to press its view that, in the absence of any reduction in wool duties, Australia would not be prepared to give up anything, including preferences accorded to the United Kingdom in the Australian market even though United Kingdom might be willing to have them reduced.
Dr. Coombs said that he discussed with the Cabinet sub-committee the position that might arise if there was a breakdown in the Conference and the various Dominions had to choose between the I.T.O. and the Ottawa Agreement. He had pointed out that the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand might be prepared to continue with I.T.O. and the Prime Minister said that even if this position were forced upon Australia, it might be possible politically to withstand it. However, the alternative of making reductions in preferences and duties without an offer on wool would not be politically practical.