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Historical documents

38 Tange to Burton

Letter [LONDON], 14 July 194[9]


After 36 hours in London I am able to give you an impression of
the course of the financial discussions.

The position is an unsatisfactory one, and the first day's
discussion was futile. This is not unexpected at meetings, but the
important thing on this occasion is that the British intend the
Conference to last only six days. (Cripps is going away for
medical treatment.) I do not believe that the meetings will in
fact finish within this time, but the answer will be known by the
time you receive this letter.

We went to the first day's meetings expecting to learn-
(a) The significance of the Cripps-Snyder-Abbott communique and
what the United Kingdom expected to get out of it;

(b) The basis on which the United Kingdom propose to approach the
United States in September on the broad lines of a permanent
solution to the present disequilibrium.

In fact, Cripps invited the Dominions successively to outline
their views on the long-term problem, and during the final ten
minutes of the day's meeting summed up the discussion as
tantamount to an endorsement of the communique and tentatively
suggested that the final outcome of the meeting might be a public
expression of endorsement.

[matter omitted]

Under other circumstances I would this morning have proposed that
the Head of this Delegation go direct to Cripps with the
proposition that we should be told precisely what the United
Kingdom hopes to get out of the United States by way of a long-
term solution of this problem; what particular advantage in the
United States the United Kingdom hopes to purchase with a general
declaration by the British Commonwealth in favour of the Snyder
communique: and that, in general, the British should be more

However, I would have grave misgivings about the results of such
an approach in the absence of our own Minister or the Prime
Minister, so that it will fall to the officials to do the best
they can, and we have started work already on the Canadians in an
endeavour to shake their confidence in the maintenance of economic
stability in the United States. Remarkable reliance is being
placed on Truman's declaration of intentions by both Canadians and
the United Kingdom.

To sum up, the position is, at this stage of the Conference, that
the British hope to achieve 25 per cent cuts in imports in order
to hold the reserve line in 1949-50 and to obtain a pleasing
declaration of long-term objectives to show to the Americans. What
they hope to get out of the Americans (other than a 'favourable
climate of opinion') no one is able to say. My view, therefore, is
that Australia should not subscribe, at least at this stage, to
the principles in the communique, particularly because it contains
a reaffirmation of the principle of non-discrimination. There is
no real commitment involved. But it is presumably intended to make
someone believe that a commitment is involved, and that someone is
presumably the United States Congress. There being no assurances
by the United Kingdom that they are getting anything at all from
the United States to contribute towards a longterm solution, it
must be contemplated that sooner or later non-discrimination will
have to be definitely rejected. At that stage general statements
of principles such as the one proposed, and which have been
accepted by Congress, will appear nothing less than a breach of
obligations by ourselves and other members of the British
Commonwealth. In other words, if nothing tangible is to be gained
by reaffirming principles, it is better to say nothing.

[AA: 4311/10, 1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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