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89 Letter from Sykes to Nimmo

London, 31 August 1950

Draft synopsis of the report on development in South and South East Asia

Since we spoke yesterday afternoon about the draft synopsis which the United Kingdom had prepared as a basis for the Report which we hope will emerge from the coming meetings of the British Commonwealth Consultative Committee,2 I have received copies of a revised version prepared in the light of comments from the other Commonwealth Governments. I therefore enclose this later document rather than the one which you saw yesterday (and of which we are practically out of stock). I enclose also a copy of a telegram from our High Commissioner in Canberra, forwarding your Government's comments on the original paper.

You will like to know that, with the agreement of all the other Governments concerned, we are asking our people in Washington to show the draft synopsis (the edition which I enclose) to the United States authorities on an informal basis.



Canberra, 24 August 1950


The following is the Australian Government's reply.

We agree with United Kingdom that it would be advantageous to discuss draft synopsis with United States authorities before London meeting so that final report will be in form most convenient to them and thus best calculated to produce prompt and satisfactory reaction.

2. We are in agreement with general plan of synopsis. There are several points however which we would like to bring to the attention of the United Kingdom Government. Our views at this stage are of course only tentative and some questions raised below are matters which would need to be further explored in London.

3. We gain impression that report has been drafted with primary attention to possible United States reactions and we recognise that this is of great importance. It might be desirable for this reason to place even more stress in synopsis upon capacities and efforts of countries of area themselves in order to show that self help is basis of whole project.

4. At same time Australian Government is impressed by necessity to draft report in such way as to encourage Governments in South East Asia to overcome their evident hesitation to associate themselves with British Commonwealth proposals. Prevailing political misgivings in these countries are perhaps greater than was expected at time of Sydney Conference.

5. In view of reluctance of Indonesia and Burma for example to give any impression that they are adhering to a particular block of countries and subjecting themselves to unknown commitments, it would no doubt assist the Governments in these and other countries if it were clearly demonstrated in the report that project initiated in Sydney is essentially in harmony with spirit and principles of international co-operation exemplified by various international organisations of which they are already members. It would therefore be helpful if report took its departure from a statement of principles and relevant resolutions of various international organisations in area of which countries are members, particularly those organisations which are specifically Asian such as regional conferences of International Labour Organisation (I.L.O.), Economic Commission for Asia and Far East (E.C.A.F.E.) and so forth. In our view E.C.A.F.E. is most important since politically it most clearly represents sovereign status and standing vis a vis other countries of its Asian members.

6. For similar reasons report should lead towards a definite intention to use international machinery to full including not only financial machinery but also machinery such as E.C.A.F.E. It is realised however that it would not be practicable or desirable in synopsis to anticipate decisions which must be made later as to precise way in which this machinery would be used.

7. For similar reasons we would urge that a prominent reference be made perhaps in Chapter IV (which at present emphasises necessity for policies of integration with world economy) to principles upon which international co-operation must be based and to state these principles in forms which will help to allay any doubts on part of countries themselves, for example self determination, full control of their economic systems and freedom from outside interference.

8. It is noted that synopsis provides (in Chapter XV) for statement of amount of assistance which can be provided within Commonwealth and by International Bank and amount left for 'missing component' of United States aid. This raises an important question concerning extent of discussion and commitments at London meetings so far as Commonwealth Governments are concerned. Position of Australian Government is that since size of six year development programme and number of countries which will be participating will not be known until shortly before meeting itself, it may be very difficult to make any Governmental decision during course of London meetings and prior to suggested date for publication of report as to part which Australia might play in this overall programme. Other Commonwealth countries may find themselves similarly placed. In these circumstances it would be unwise to retain any reference in synopsis as shown to Americans (about) amount of Commonwealth aid which will be forthcoming, since this would create expectations of a decision in October, which in fact it may not prove practicable to make.

[NAA: A3320, 3/4/2/1 part 2]

1 Edwin Sykes, member of UK Secretariat of Commonwealth, Finance Ministers, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers and of Commonwealth Consultative Committee, London.

2 The synopsis formed the basis of the published report of the Commonwealth Consultative Committee meeting in London, 1950.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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