Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Northeast Asian Affairs (Young) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Allison)1

  • Subject:
  • Japan’s Application for Accession to the GATT.

Believing it essential to take the step for domestic political reasons, the Japanese Government in July made formal application for an invitation to negotiate for accession to the GATT. The question of Japan’s application has been placed on the agenda of the Seventh Session of the Contracting Parties to the GATT which convenes at Geneva on October 2.

The interdepartmental Trade Agreements Committee has recommended that the United States delegation to the Seventh Session should support favorable action on the Japanese application, but that it should not press the application to the point of incurring the risk of outright rejection or of straining our relations with other countries so as to prejudice the attainment of our broad policy objectives. This restraining clause was added largely because of the known opposition of the British Commonwealth countries and the inadvisability of our pressing the United Kingdom on an issue which poses some difficulty for us in view of the forthcoming Presidential election and Congressional consideration.

Somewhat, to our surprise, it now appears that enough favorable votes may be available at Geneva to obtain an invitation for Japan. This would be a pyrrhic victory, however, unless the British Commonwealth countries were included among those agreeing to invite Japan.

On September 22, representatives of the British Embassy presented an aide-mémoire to Mr. Thorp stating that the Japanese application presented the “most acute difficulties” for Her Majesty’s Government and suggesting that, instead of deciding the issue at the Seventh Session, the Contracting Parties should adopt a resolution which would defer the decision.2 Mr. Thorp told the British representatives that in his opinion it should be possible to draft a resolution, acceptable to both the United States and the United Kingdom, under which an Intersessional Committee would make a detailed examination of the matters involved in bringing Japan into the GATT and report on them to the Contracting Parties. Representatives [Page 119] of the Department and the British Embassy are currently endeavoring to work out a mutually acceptable draft.

The broad language of the TAC recommendation leaves considerable leeway to the United States delegation to the Seventh Session. Moreover, our commitment to the Japanese is limited to an assurance that our delegation will be instructed to favor postponement of consideration of the Japanese application or some other feasible alternative and to oppose outright rejection.

The general view in the Department is, however, that we should endeavor to achieve a result which would make it possible for tariff negotiations between Japan and the Contracting Parties, including the United States, to be undertaken as soon as feasible in view of our legislative and procedural considerations; namely, by late 1953.

I am attaching a copy of a memorandum of Mr. Thorp’s conversation with the British and a copy of the aide-mémoire. You will note that the aide-mémoire makes clear the nature of the British difficulties—the Government’s commitments to the British public that under present circumstances they cannot bind themselves to grant de jure MFN treatment to Japan, criticism in the press and in Parliament of British adherence to GATT, and the forthcoming Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, which can be expected to include commercial policy in its discussions.

I anticipate that there will be interesting developments in this matter within the next few weeks. I intend to keep our Embassy at Tokyo currently informed for their own interest and in order that the latest information will be available to you when you reach Tokyo toward the end of your trip.

  1. Drafted by Selma G. Kallis of the Office of Northeast Asian Affairs.
  2. Copies of both the British aide-mémoire and the memorandum of conversation of the Sept. 22 meeting are appended to the source text but not printed. (394.31/9–2552)