124 Chifley to Dedman

Cablegram G75 CANBERRA, 22 July 1947


1. Glad to have your letter of 6th July [1] and your assessment of the position. I agree with your view that we should beware of provisions aimed at facilitating use of quantitative restrictions for protective purposes. You have of course been keeping us fully advised of tariff negotiations in cables of later dates than your letter. I have not been expecting any developments on wool until the price support legislation is through Congress, but I would like to be advised promptly as soon as Clayton gives some inkling of the prospects. You know my views on the value of the whole programme without American concessions on wool. [2]

2. The possible legislative programme is indeed a problem and I have not yet been able to reach any final conclusions as to how best it can be arranged. This is due partly to the domestic political situation and partly to the uncertainties still surrounding mechanics by which Charter and Agreement (or Agreements) would be brought into operation.

3. Regarding our own situation, you will realise that proposals are still extremely vague so far as the public, the labour movement, caucus and even the majority of Cabinet are concerned, not to mention opposition parties. I am at least convinced that we could not contemplate a full dress tariff debate of magnitude involved before the end of the year. The ground has not yet been properly prepared, we already have a pretty full legislative programme, a number of Ministers will be absent, and I doubt whether our officers have the stamina left to do the enormous amount of preparatory work involved in the time available.

4. I am almost equally convinced that we could not expect to get Parliamentary acceptance of the General Agreement (or a number of bilateral agreements submitted simultaneously) or of the Charter itself, without giving the House an opportunity of discussing the associated changes in the tariff. As for the Charter, it obviously could not be submitted for formal acceptance or ratification until its terms have been finally settled at the World Conference after the House has risen.

5. Thus the programme for the forthcoming Session of Parliament could not possibly exceed- (a) A debate (on the printing) of the Draft Charter as it emerges from Geneva, which we could probably not avoid in any case, and/or (b) Government acceptance of the Agreement or Agreements emerging from Geneva, which in itself may be difficult in the time available even if the terms commend themselves, and (c) Introduction of a Bill for the acceptance of the Agreement or Agreements with the Tariff alterations annexed as schedules and accompanied by Tariff Proposals which would come into effect when tabled.

6. How far we could, in fact, go with this possible programme depends on a number of questions, to which we do not, as yet, know the answers, and which will readily occur to you. Among them are form and nature of the proposed agreements whether multilateral or bilateral and so on. There are also potential complications arising out of leakages of information as to tariff proposals and legitimate publication of details by other countries if the multilateral form should be accepted.

7. My present inclination is to put off until early next year as much of the programme as possible, both from the point of view of convenience and of the ease of getting accepted whatever Cabinet may recommend. My present impression is that it would be bad tactics to have all the details announced and then left hanging in mid air for everyone to shoot at through the Xmas recess. Moreover delaying steps (b) and (c) until the new year would also allow us to reassess the position free of commitment in the light of the result of the World Conference.

8. I would be glad to have your reactions and considered suggestions in the light of current developments at Geneva and progressively as the mechanics of the proposed agreement emerge more clearly.

9. I am in general agreement with your proposed schedule for your own movements. [3] I presume you will let me know if there is any change in your anticipation of the progress to be expected, and the need for your own presence in Geneva. There may be advantages in leaving the final documents for Coombs to attend to as we expect they will be no more than certificates of correctness of record.

10. Like yourself I lean to bilateral agreements.

1 Not found.

2 See Chifley's message to Cripps in Document 100, note 3.

3 Dedman travelled to London and Germany 19-22 July.

[AA : CP855/1/1, S1-BUN1, i]