113 Minutes Of Meeting At Department Of Trade & Customs

29th September, 1955


Trade Discussions with Japan

[matter omitted]

2. The Comptroller-General of Customs (Mr Meere) and the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture (Mr Crawford) attended the meeting.

Messrs Heyes and Robertson of Trade and Customs and Messrs Westerman and Millwood of Commerce and Agriculture were also present. [1]

3. Mr Crawford said that, in his opinion, the preliminary discussions with the Japanese should be on a purely informal basis and this should be stressed to the Japanese when they were advised of the date on which we were prepared to commence discussions. For this reason, he considered that only the two departments directly interested in the matter-Trade and Customs and Commerce and Agriculture-should be represented at the preliminary talks and, to emphasize their informal nature, the Departments should be represented by officers of First Assistant Secretary status and not by departmental heads.

4. Mr Crawford then said that, in his view, the preliminary talks should be of an exploratory nature only, attention being given to the respective export interests of each country in the market of the other country. On this basis:-

(a) Our representatives would deal with our export commodities one-by-one and indicate the nature of the treatment which we desired be accorded to each Australian product. In the case of wheat, for example, we would request quota allocations based on the historical pattern of our wheat export trade with Japan (in order to ensure that the treatment which we received would be fair in relation to that accorded to other countries, particularly 'surplus disposal' countries like the U.S.A.).

Mr Crawford proposed the commodity-by-commodity approach as reasonable. We can scarcely ask the Japanese for a guarantee of non-discriminatory treatment because, having invoked Article XXXV of G.A.T.T., it is clear that we do not intend to extend such treatment to Japanese goods.

(b) The Japanese would then be invited to outline the problems facing their export trade with Australia and the requests which they wished to submit. We would, in turn, comment on their statements and on the practicability of further consideration being given to particular requests as, for example, to a request for complete m.f.n. tariff treatment.

5. Mr Crawford then went on to say that:-

(a) Whatever our ultimate intention, we should give the Japanese the impression that we envisaged the continuation of discriminatory import licensing restrictions against some of their goods. Apart from negotiation purposes with the Japanese, this would enable, if necessary, an approach to be made at Ministerial level to the United Kingdom which might secure some favourable concessions for our exports to that country in return for favoured treatment to certain United Kingdom exports, e.g. textiles, which would otherwise be likely to suffer from intensified Japanese competition in the Australian market.

(b) We should not permit the Japanese to revive the G.A.T.T. issue at the discussions. The Government had already made its decision on this question.

6. Mr Meere then outlined the nature of the work which his department had done in connection with the impending discussions.

He said that a selection had been made of all items which appeared to be of actual and potential significance in our import trade with Japan. Comprehensive sheets had been prepared in respect of each of these items which total 311. The sheets, he said, are being roneoed so that they will be available for reference in interdepartmental discussions and for the information of Ministers. Mr Meere produced copies of several of these sheets which he handed to Mr Crawford.

7. Mr Meere said that a special committee had been set up in the Department to report on the extent of the tariff and import licensing concessions which might be accorded to Japan. In addition to the item sheets referred to in the previous paragraph, the committee had examined all other items in the Customs Tariff.

(There are approximately 2,600 items in the Tariff.) The task was a large one, taking considerable time, but the committee had completed its work and submitted a report. Mr Meere handed Mr Crawford a copy of the committee's report.

8. Mr Meere said his Department had reached the stage when discussions with the Japanese could begin. He said that he agreed with the views expressed by Mr Crawford (which are outlined in paragraphs 3 to 6 above) and that these would form the basis of the preliminary talks with the Japanese. Mr Heyes would be the senior representative of the Department of Trade and Customs at the discussions and Mr Westerman, he assumed, the senior representative of Commerce and Agriculture. Mr Crawford concurred.

9. It was agreed that consideration should now [be given] [2] to the question of formulating the requests which (we would] submit to the Japanese. This would involve drawing [up a] 'balanced' request list which would be determined [in the light] of the concessions which we would be prepared to [accord] Japan and would be the responsibility of Messrs Robertson and Millwood. The list would show our proposed import concessions on one side and our export requests on the other. It would be for interdepartmental use only and, when completed, a further interdepartmental meeting would be held to examine the list and make any necessary adjustments before advising the Japanese of the date on which discussions could commence. The meeting, it was hoped, could be held next week.

1 Crawford had written to Meere on 5 September expressing concern that time was 'slipping away' and that when Japan acceded to GATT the Japanese Government would be under political pressure to discriminate against countries continuing discrimination against Japan. He suggested a meeting of this kind to have 'a general talk about any ideas which might be worth following up before our talks with the Japanese commence'.

2 A corner of the original document is torn. Words in square brackets have been supplied to fill in the gaps.

[AA : A1310/1, 810/1/39]