Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. John R. Minter of the Division of European Affairs

Participants: Mr. Francis B. Sayre, Assistant Secretary of State.
Mr. Keith Officer, Australian Counselor of the British Embassy.
Mr. L. R. Macgregor, Australian Trade Commissioner.
Mr. Harry C. Hawkins, Division of Trade Agreements.
Mr. John Hickerson, Division of European Affairs.
Mr. John H. Fuqua, Division of Trade Agreements.
Mr. John R. Minter, Division of European Affairs.

Mr. Sayre opened the conversation by saying that he hoped and believed that we were beginning to understand better what was in each other’s mind and that he was glad to have this conference take place in order that we might determine just what we could now do in order that real progress can be made. He said that he thought it would be wise for him to review before this gathering developments of the past few months. In review, Mr. Sayre said that last June we made the Australians a proposal which inter alia involved a tentative offer by the United States of a reduction of the wool duty to 25 cents per pound. He said that at that time we tried very hard to secure authority to go further and that we had continued to seek authority for a better offer. However, we were not successful and our official position then, as it does now, rested on the tentative offer of 25 cents. Mr. Sayre said that he had personally made several trips to see the Secretary of Agriculture and to see the President, both in June and recently, and that he had not secured authority to go beyond 25 cents.

Mr. Sayre then referred to the present Australian request that we submit to them fresh offers for their appraisal. He said that he had become convinced that the next move was ours and that we had decided to canvass again the whole field of possible concessions, after [Page 326] which we would submit to them in writing a further tentative proposal, hoping that what we might be able to present would come nearer to meeting the Australian wishes. He hoped that we could submit such proposals within a very short time, possibly a fortnight. Mr. Sayre said that, of course, all proposals would have to continue to be tentative as there can be no commitments prior to public notice and public hearings.

Mr. Officer then said that he was very gratified that we were willing to proceed as described and that he was sure the suggestion would prove to be the best form of procedure. He said he hoped that the new offers would not contain a repetition of the 25 cent tentative offer on wool, as he felt certain that such a suggestion would cause an abrupt cessation of discussions. He stated that their instructions had always been and still were to press for a full fifty per cent reduction, that is a reduction by 17 cents. A reduction by 9 cents or even 10 cents leaves a wide gap between what we have suggested and what the Australians want. He then gave a long discourse on the position of his Government and how strongly he personally felt that we should make our offers’ much better than formerly. He stated “off the record” that he personally felt, as he did last summer, that if we should suggest a 12 cent reduction (to 22 cents) we would at least start the Australian Government to thinking about bridging the gap.

Mr. Officer stated that he personally was in no great hurry to receive our next proposal; that he believed that they should not arrive in Australia before Mr. Bruce2 had had an opportunity to picture to Australian officials the situation here. He felt that their arrival before Mr. Bruce, particularly if they were short of what he thought would constitute the basis for further discussion, might nullify the effect of Bruce’s attempt to depict the situation as he saw it here, which he, Officer, admitted was difficult.

Mr. Sayre stated that of course we would do whatever the Australian representatives felt was advisable. We did not ourselves hope to formulate new proposals hurriedly, but we would do the very best we could in the time which we had.

It was then explained that what we hoped to do was to submit two new sets of tentative schedules, our schedules of course to be subject to revision in the light of hearings or any new information.

The question was raised whether Mr. Macgregor should continue his informal conversations. Mr. Macgregor said he thought it would be helpful and that he would like to do so. He referred particularly to meat quotas. He had telegraphed asking for further instructions regarding the advisability of concentrating on frozen meats. He [Page 327] thought that his new instructions might clear up that matter and that we should have some conferences concerning it.

(Mr. Macgregor stated later in the day to Mr. Hawkins that he wished to correct one or two impressions which may have been left by Mr. Officer’s statement in the morning. In the first place he stated that Mr. Officer was wrong in saying that their instructions were to press for 17 cents. He repeated his statement made in an earlier conference that he was instructed to ask for a rate of 20 cents on wool. Furthermore he said that he and Officer had discussed the question of timing their report with Brace’s arrival and that he had queried Canberra and had been instructed to telegraph immediately any report he had to make irrespective of the whereabouts of Mr. Bruce.

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  1. Australian High Commissioner at London; he visited Washington en route from London to Australia.