134 Chifley to Dedman
Cablegram T228 CANBERRA, 14 August 1947, 2.50 p.m.
MOST IMMEDIATE SECRET
Your I.T.O. 254 and 272.
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade After carefully reviewing your suggestions and with realisation of the difficulties to be met, Cabinet Sub-Committee believes it would be possible to adapt our procedure to main objectives of Tariff Steering Committee's plan, subject to the following qualifications which we think would probably be fairly generally acceptable.
1. Because of the extra delay of approximately a month in the target date for conclusion of tariff negotiations, the date for provisional acceptance of the Agreement (what they call 'signing') should be deferred until four to six weeks after the suggested date of 30th September.
2. This need not occasion equal delay in bringing tariff reductions into operation agreed date. Latter could be effected almost simultaneously or up to say a fortnight after 'signing' by key countries. We assume that arrangements will be made for all countries which provisionally accept Agreement to publish details of tariff reductions simultaneously, presumably at approximately the date of bringing into operation of the reductions.
3. We would strongly prefer any formal action at Geneva by any country at conclusion of negotiations to be limited to a mere initialling to establish correctness of the record. We ourselves would not be prepared to do more than this by 30th September.
We would have no objection to any country signing after (not at) end of Geneva negotiations but before deadline date.
4. We ourselves, if we do in fact provisionally accept the Agreement, would prefer our own acceptance (i.e. signature), tabling of tariff proposals in our House, and actual operation of the tariff reductions take place simultaneously-or as nearly simultaneously as possible. We would find it awkward to bring down tariff proposals with an interregnum before the reductions actually came into operation.
5. Parliament must be sitting for tariff proposals to be tabled, and we expect it to rise in early November (12th may be latest possible date).
6. Our proposed time-table would therefore be:
(a) 15th September: Tariff negotiations completed. McCarthy and a few senior officers to leave for Canberra.
(b) 15-30th September. Conclusion of remaining work of the Conference. Balance of Delegation to leave for Canberra.
(c) 1-31st October: Cabinet and Caucus to consider Charter and General Agreement. Decision to be made on provisional acceptance or otherwise of General Agreement. We will probably be unable to avoid some debate on the draft Charter in the House during this period, but would prefer, if this is the case, to defer the debate until towards the end of the month. It could then wind up with an announcement of intention (if so decided) to provisionally accept the General Agreement.
(d) 1-15th November: The deadline date for signing by key countries and provisional entry into force of the Agreement to be fixed somewhere within this period. (Signature would be formal act of provisional acceptance.) Australia to sign (if so decided) as near to deadline date as possible. Tariff proposals to be tabled simultaneously and take effect immediately they are tabled.
(e) 21st November: World Conference to commence.
7. Referring to your points (a) to (d) in introduction to I.T.O.254, we are most anxious to avoid even an appearance of accepting and having to justify in Parliament acceptance of Charter itself this year. Inclusion of most of Chapter V and the Protocol in the Agreement is awkward from this point of view, but we would endeavour to avoid the difficulty by emphasising the provisional nature of the action taken, the very real difficulties involved in any other course of procedure, and the facts that as long as the Agreement is only provisionally in force, (i) we would be free to withdraw on 60 days' notice, and (ii) we would not need to take any legislative action to implement Chapter V clauses and the Protocol. We assume that (i) and (ii) are likely to remain available for some considerable time, as a 'sufficient number of countries' must 'definitely' sign before the Agreement comes definitively into force. (Please confirm correctness of this assumption.) 8. With further reference to our cable T.162 and your I.T.O.272 Sub-Committee has decided [not to ask Full Cabinet for a final decision on possible]  Parliamentary time-table at Friday's meeting, as it would prefer to have a clearer view on possible outcome of negotiations and the advantage of your presence before seeking any Full Cabinet approvals. A long agendum giving background of negotiations at Geneva will, however, be submitted for information.