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Historical documents

127 Cablegram from Gordon Walker to Australian Government

London, 16 December 1950


Colombo Plan

We have been handed by United States Embassy an informal memorandum on Colombo Plan2 and we understand that a similar memorandum has been communicated to all members of the Consultative Committee.

2. We regard this response by the United States Government as being favourable and it clears the way for participation by United States on the lines envisaged by the London meeting of Consultative Committee. It appears that the United States Government does not wish to take the lead in this and wants the initiative to continue to come from Commonwealth Consultative Committee.

3. United States' ideas on continuing the organisation appear to be in accordance with the consensus of opinion established at the London meeting in that they envisage that the external economic assistance should be determined and administered on a bilateral basis while there should be continuing consultation between Governments on problems of development in a regular series of meetings in which the United States will participate as an equal partner.

4. The initiative is now left with members of the Consultative Committee. We propose that next step should be to invite United States to attend a meeting of the Consultative Committee say about the end of January to take stock of the situation and to determine how this process of continuing consultation could best be carried out and to make recommendations to Governments accordingly. The non-Commonwealth countries in the area would be invited to attend the same meeting and we understand that the United States Government are informing them of the United States' attitude to the Colombo Plan as expressed in their memorandum. We suggest that it would be best for this meeting to be at official level and that Colombo might be a convenient place for the meeting. This might clear ground for a subsequent meeting at Ministerial level. We consider that it is most desirable that this meeting should take place as soon as possible in order to keep up the momentum and maintain public interest.

5. We visualise the main result of the meeting as being the establishment of the Consultative Committee on a wider basis including United States and such non-Commonwealth countries as decided to participate with recommendations to Governments as to functions and procedures of the Committee and for the establishment of any permanent machinery that may seem necessary in the light of these functions. In our view it would be possible to secure an agreement on this matter fairly quickly.

6. If the other members of the Consultative Committee agree to the above course of action we would suggest that it would be best for the invitation to the United States Government to attend the Conference to be given formally on behalf of the members of the Consultative Committee as a whole and we would, of course, be prepared to make such a communication on behalf of the Consultative Committee if this was thought to be the best approach. We think, however, that any formal collective reply should not extend beyond the invitation to participate in the work of the Consultative Committee and that Commonwealth Governments should otherwise reply to the memorandum individually in whatever sense they think fit. In accordance with the decisions of the Consultative Committee in London it would in our view be desirable for all members to keep each other very fully informed about the discussions which they may have with the United States Representatives arising from the United States memorandum.

7. The question arises whether we should invite the Government of the Philippines to join the Colombo Plan. At the meeting of the Consultative Committee in London this was left open pending clarification of United States view. United States Government have now informed usthat they would welcome the adherence of the Philippines to the Colombo Plan if the Consultative Committee decided to invite them. For our part we should be ready to support the membership of the Philippines if other members of the Committee agreed and in that case the Philippines could be invited to join and to send a Representative to the meeting at the end of January. Otherwise this question might be placed on agenda for forthcoming meeting.

[NAA: 9879, 2202/El part 1]

1 The cablegram was addressed from the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to the members of the Consultative Committee.

2 Document 128.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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