394.31/3–1751: Telegram

The Acting Chairman of the United States Delegation to the Torquay Conference (Corse) to the Secretary of State


564. GATT negots with Brit Commonwealth in crisis stage. USDel efforts obtain adequate return for US offers tariff concessions are blocked by refusals members Commonwealth give each other releases on preferences. No hope of other than token agreements with UK, New Zealand, Australia or of granting latter two controversial concession on wool of long-term value to South Africa unless all members Commonwealth there represented Torquay for final stages and are willing enter multilateral discussion such as produced last-minute solution similar impasse Geneva 1947.1

South African del stated leaving Torquay under orders Wed Mar 21, altho bilateral negotiating stage conference due last to Mar 31 and special session CP’s called March 29. South Africa suggested last week limited negots for co-listing South Africa as direct beneficiary wool concession in return for statistical surplus duty concessions previously offered in Art XXVIII negots2 plus small new offers and [Page 1283] recession some preferences in Canada. US agreed negot but intimated South Africa offers to date inadequate and some additional Commonwealth preference releases necessary to justify granting wool concessions to Southern Dominions as whole premature departure South African del undoubtedly make more difficult, if not impossible, Brit Commonwealth negots now seriously threatened by preference log jam. In case collapse, South Africa will lose wool concessions, the one important concession South Africa stands to obtain Torquay.

In accepting South African suggestion limited negots USDel gave important weight to such intangibles as (1) Satisfactory South African response on Art XXVIII compensation; (2) Low level South African tariff and preferences; and (3) Known South African economic and tariff problems. Request for further South African preference releases deemed most moderate.

Wld assist greatly if Emb cld make appropriate approach resulting in instr South African del remain Torquay to end conference and to yield reasonably on preferences where essential on over-all basis assist in comm obtaining concession on wool.

Sent Pretoria 3 for Birch,3 rptd info Brussels 12,4 Dept 564.

  1. For documentation regarding the problem of wool in the formulation of the United States position in 1950 for the Torquay negotiation, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. i, pp. 791 ff. Regarding the question of wool at the Geneva Conference in 1947, see ibid., 1947, vol. i, p. 1074.
  2. The Article XXVIII negotiation with South Africa had been long and complicated and on one important item (auto parts) the United States had been over-compensated.
  3. John A. Birch was Economic Affairs Officer at the Embassy in the Union of South Africa.
  4. The designated head of the Delegation of the Union of South Africa to the Torquay Conference was Dr. P. R. Botha, Union Minister to Belgium. The head of the Union negotiating team at Torauay was G. J. G. Steyn.