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Historical documents

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
(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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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