169 Evatt to Hodgson

Cablegram E34 WASHINGTON, 30 April 1943, 1.56 a.m.

IMMEDIATE SECRET TO HODGSON FOR CURTIN AND HIMSELF

Regarding the circular telegram from the Dominions Office [1] I would suggest that there is the danger of political repercussions in now commencing conversations in regard to the post-war commercial policy, including the very difficult Article VII of the Mutual Aid Agreement. It will hardly be possible for conversations either in London or Washington to be kept absolutely confidential.

That means that there will be discussions and election controversy on Australia's policy in relation to tariffs including imperial preference. The very object of the proposal in the telegram is that Halifax should be authorised to take the initiative and approach Hull on the highest level, and that he should do so after being armed with the views of the Dominion governments and, apparently, the Government of India also. The procedure suggested is not satisfactory. When departmental officers are persuaded to recommend a scheme, they are not interested in the political aspects of the matter, yet Australia's postwar commercial policy involves most difficult and delicate political problems for any government in Australia.

I see considerable danger in the proposal and I would recommend leaving the whole matter alone until after the Government can speak with the authority it can obtain only after a mandate from the country.

If, contrary to my view, it is thought that conversations can safely proceed, they should take place at Washington where department officials, including Coombs, can be in closest touch with the British officials.

EVATT

1 See Document 165.

[AA:A989, 43/735/57/1]