512 Copland to Evatt

Memorandum [CANBERRA] [1], 17 January 1947

Confirming our discussion on the evening of the 13th inst., I now wish formally to make the following preliminary suggestions for your consideration as regards Australian policy towards the Southeast Asia area:-

(1) A conference of the representatives of Australia in that area should be held for the purpose of discussing problems of establishment and policy. If this conference is held at some place abroad, such as India, it would be most desirable that it should coincide with a visit from you to the main centres of the area.

There would be some advantage in holding it in India because I believe that it will be possible for Australia to establish friendly relations with India, where we have much greater trade interests than we do in China. Failing India, I suggest the conference should be held in Australia.

(2) A visit from you to Indonesia, India, the Philippines and China, and perhaps to some of the other states in Southeast Asia would demonstrate the interest of Australia in the whole of this area, and particularly the sympathy of Australia towards the legitimate aspirations of the peoples of the area to achieve political independence. It is most important that we should break down the impression that most of the leaders of Southeast Asia have of us that we are interested primarily in the west, that we have not emancipated ourselves from our political and cultural attachments to the west, and that the great events happening in Southeast Asia are being passed relatively unnoticed by us. I feel sure that a visit from the Minister for External Affairs of Australia would be regarded throughout the whole area as indicating a reorientation of Australian policy. Nothing less spectacular than such a visit would provide convincing evidence of this.

(3) Though Australia has many shortages of commodities to contend with herself, she is producing a considerable range of goods such as iron and steel products, machinery, electrical equipment, refrigerators and similar household equipment, woollen textiles, that are urgently needed for the rehabilitation of the whole of the area. Australia has already made a considerable contribution through UNRRA and in other ways, but it has not been properly pubilicized and is not fully appreciated. In the long run, the economic development of the whole of the area provides Australia with a natural market for all of these goods, and we can expect all of them to be produced in Australia in greater supplies than can be consumed at home. It is therefore to the interest of Australia in the long run to have an assured market for these goods. My suggestion is that a credit of, say, 20,000,000 be established which would be available over the next three years for the purchase by certain countries in Southeast Asia of limited supplies of goods of the type I have mentioned. India, having much sterling reserves, would probably be able to pay for the goods, but she should be included in any quota system, though not necessarily in the credit available. Other countries to which the credit of the quota of export goods might apply would be Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Siam, Burma. Australia would run the risk of losing part of this credit, but, on the other hand, she would gain considerable political advantage from it and her goods would be going in limited quantities into markets which might eventually prove very important.

(4) A small, but, in the long run, an important contribution to the technical development of the area could be made through a considerable plan under which students from these countries could be trained in the universities and agricultural colleges of Australia. I know that this matter has been considered from time to time, but I think not on a comprehensive plan. I suggest that the matter be taken up with the Vice-Chancellors' Committee with a view to working out a comprehensive, though limited, plan for the technical training of students from the countries in Southeast Asia.

2. I had the opportunity, during the United Nations Assembly, of discussing these matters with Mr. Colin Moodie of the High Commissioner's Office in India. I should add that he is fully in agreement with the suggestions I have made.

1 Copland was a member of the Australian delegation to the UN General Assembly in 1946, then travelled to Australia before returning to China.

[AA : A1838,277/2, i]