11 Nimmo to Wheeler

Letter (extract) [LONDON], 7 April 1948

I have only today received your letter of 17th March, to which is attached a memorandum setting out instructions given to the New Zealand Supply Mission in London. Clinkard [1] and his team have been active here for some time, but I do not know what measure of success they have achieved. I shall attempt to obtain their views on the utility of our sending such a Mission to London.

I have also received your memorandum of the 1st April, to which is attached a copy of notes covering an interdepartmental meeting on availability of essential supplies from the United Kingdom, which was held on 2nd March, 1948. [2]

Has a telegram along the lines of paragraph 8(a) been sent? Although I support the conclusion reached in paragraph 7, I still have some doubts as to whether we are not missing out here because we have not submitted a list of essential items we require from the United Kingdom. On the other hand I admit the possible validity of your worry lest it should be taken as an indication that we are not interested in anything excluded from the list.

To my mind, I believe that the United Kingdom official who is negotiating a trade agreement has only a general idea of the ease or difficulty of the supply position in this country and the extent of high priority export commitments. He would argue: 'Yes, steel is short in this country and we have certain overseas commitments. We can let you have 50,000 tons-Oh, you want some of it in the form of machinery-(he would then think to himself "How anxious are we to obtain this agreement-is there a prospect of a new long-term market for us"-but, I doubt if he would think in terms of supplies desired by soft-currency countries such as Australia). Well, if you are prepared to wait twelve of twenty- four months we could let you have some.' It is a matter of getting orders placed and if you are fortunate in arranging a Minister of Supply official to keep on the tail of the producer.

Australia ought to have by now a pretty complete picture of the sort of goods other countries are keen to purchase and which are in world short supply (i.e. items mentioned in recent United Kingdom trade agreements, lists of essential European imports compiled for the European Recovery Administrator, lists of goods we are still importing from the United States).

I personally believe that there will be increased pressure on United Kingdom supplies of these items during the next two or three years. This belief may, however, be based on a purely private suspicion that the European Recovery Administrator may request the United Kingdom to divert increased supplies of capital equipment and other goods to the other European Aid countries.

Might it not then be advisable to compile a short list of absolute essentials, together with quantities and delivery dates (so short a list that only a fool could interpret it to be a complete list of our requirements) and submit it at the highest level. If this list could be backed by the story of end uses, its relationship to net dollar expenditure and the effects of non-availability of these items on our volume of exports to the United Kingdom and the level of employment in Australia, and it were to get into the hands of the Oversea Negotiations Committee (meaning also the Treasury and the Board of Trade who are represented on it) it would- (a) at least remind Britain's negotiators of the existence of Dominion essential needs (b) if backed up with a detailed list of orders waiting to be placed or already placed for delivery in the too-distant future, enable Ministry of Supply and other officials to examine and probably improve the flow of supplies to Australia, as well as ensuring that some further orders are placed, and (c) give the United Kingdom Treasury a better understanding of the reasons for our continued net dollar drawings.

Let me emphasise that I consider it would, in respect to many items, be not far short of a waste of time to send a Supply Mission here unless they brought with them a list of orders waiting to be placed or to be hurried up, together with names of importers and prospective suppliers. In respect to other items (i.e. cotton piece goods, tin plate, etc.) it might produce worthwhile results.

1 G.W. Clinkard, Secretary, New Zealand Department of Industries and Commerce.

2 Not found.

[AA : A2910, 453/7/1, iv]