Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)

I asked Mr. Keith Officer, Australian Counselor of the British Embassy, to call this morning. I told him that I was in a position to give him some good news. Ever since the Australian Government had announced its intention of withdrawing restrictions and removing discriminations we have been working on the possibility of “de-black-listing them”,—to use the term which the Australians themselves had invented. I explained, however, that in spite of a widespread impression to the contrary in Australia, discriminations had not as a matter of fact been entirely removed. Those remaining were of two sorts: (1) The fact that they still refused to give us the benefit of concessions that they had granted to other countries in their trade agreements, while asking us to give Australia the benefit of concessions we have given to other countries; and (2) that in the articles still restricted, which amounted to about 33% in value of the original list, they had given us no assurance that if licenses were henceforth granted we would be given our proportionate share.

Notwithstanding this, we realized that the Australian Government was making an effort to meet us, and we were prepared to meet them [Page 122] more than halfway. We would not insist upon receiving their intermediate rates now, despite the principle involved therein. We had therefore sent a telegram6 late last night to Mr. Wilson directing him to tell the Australian Government that we were prepared to de-black-list them on the basis that steps had been taken to eliminate substantial discrimination as soon as we received assurances that if any licenses were issued between now and the end of the system in March we would be given our proportionate share. I then read to him the note which Mr. Wilson had authority to deliver at once, and said that within thirty-six hours of the time we received Wilson’s telegram steps would be taken to de-black-list them and publicity given thereto.

Mr. Officer expressed himself as very gratified. I said that I was also, but I felt bound to tell him that in getting the various approvals from other interested Departments I had been surprised to find how much resentment, which I had never suspected, still persisted in these quarters. He said that he was aware of that and, conversely, he doubted if we had ever suspected the extent of the resentment in Australia that had brought about their action. However, he admitted that Australia “had hit us hard” and the task before us now was to clean up the mess.

However, he said that what his Government was interested in was the next step, namely, the initiation of negotiations. Expecting that I would soon tell him that we had been able to de-black-list Australia, Sir Ronald Lindsay7 had been sitting for ten days on instructions to come down. He said that the Australian Government felt that it had not only gone a long way to meet us in removing the licensing system but had also gone a long way to meet us in agreeing to give up certain preferences to facilitate the U.K.–U.S.A. trade agreements.8 Confidentially he could tell me that there had been “the devil of a row” in the Cabinet and that it had only been approved by a very small majority. Australia had given up the idea of multilateral negotiations during the U.K.–U.S. negotiations, but still was anxious to proceed with us as soon as possible. A list of Australian desiderata was now on its way, which he believed was not long, and which Sir Ronald Lindsay would bring down.

What was he to put in his telegram on this point?

I replied that I thought the de-black-listing would now go through in a very short time; I hoped that Sir Ronald Lindsay would not come down and propose discussions before this was an accomplished fact. If he had to describe the situation in a telegram I should suggest something as follows: That the American Government attached [Page 123] importance to cleaning up this phase of the situation at once; that before it was finished they would not give any sort of a promise as to what they would do afterward; but that he (Keith Officer), on the basis of his own analysis of the situation, was recommending to Sir Ronald that he come down to the State Department and raise the question of trade discussions immediately thereafter. Mr. Officer said he thought that his Government would probably authorize exactly that.

P[ierrepont] M[offat]
  1. Supra.
  2. British Ambassador in the United States.
  3. See pp. 1 ff.