227 Cablegram From Watt To Department Of External Affairs

12th July, 1957



Trade Agreement.

We feel in some difficulty in relation to other diplomatic Missions-especially the Old Commonwealth-in answering questions on the trade agreement. The Japanese press published the text of the main agreement but naturally could not publish in any detail the text of public minutes. However, the press referred to certain figures contained in the above minutes, which were not incorporated in the main agreement without indicating the source.

This led some Missions to seek information about 'other documents' and in one case to refer to the possibility of 'secret documents'.

We are endeavouring to remedy the situation as far as practicable by distributing quickly to the Old Commonwealth and some other Missions mimeographed copies of the main agreement and public minutes.

2. I discussed briefly with Mr McEwen yesterday the above problem and also the question whether information regarding confidential minutes was at any stage to be given to Old Commonwealth countries. I pointed out the necessity for exactly similar action in Canberra and Tokyo to avoid complications in our general relationships with the Missions concerned. I understood from the Minister that no action is being taken in Canberra (nor I assume in London, Washington or Ottawa) to communicate the text or substance of confidential agreed minutes. In these circumstances we in Tokyo are making no mention anywhere of confidential agreed minutes.

3. I pointed out to Mr McEwen that the Japanese Foreign Office and other Departments are notoriously insecure and mentioned the possibility that the United States, Old Commonwealth or other Missions might well learn from Japanese sources of the existence of confidential agreed minutes. If so, Old Commonwealth relations with Australia whether in Canberra or at relevant overseas missions could be prejudiced in some degree. Mr McEwen, while not minimising the risk, felt we had to rely upon Japanese, whose self-interest should make them take care not to disclose the existence of confidential minutes.

4. Would appreciate cabled confirmation that Old Commonwealth Missions in Canberra have been given information only regarding the main agreement and the public minutes. [1] Would also appreciate any comments on above.

[AA : A1838/280, 3103/10/2, v]