267 Legation in Washington to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 647 WASHINGTON, 23 May 1946, 2.43 p.m.


FAO CONFERENCE. The new food organization. [1]

1. There may be a sharp division on the functions of the new body.

The French, supported by India, UNRRA and other claimants, are proposing that all food supplies surplus to rationed domestic needs should be pooled and allocated by majority decision. [2] The United States of America cannot be relied upon to oppose this. The proposal is not so plainly stated, and New Zealand does not understand that her contract commitments to the United Kingdom would be overruled. These contracts are called bilateral agreements, giving preference to the British. The United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are so far the only countries which understand the significance of this move. Berendsen is under instructions from Nash in London and is really too ill and over- worked to be talked to. However, we still hope to avoid a Conference decision on the above lines. [3]

2. Dr. Evatt in London has instructed us by telephone to get on the Central Committee. [4] If this were pressed here at present we should be defeated and it is wise to play for time. India is also demanding membership. If we both were successful, the Central Committee would start with four British countries. Claimant countries and geographical consideration are being discussed also.

It appears that the inevitable bargainings will result in too large a Committee, as is usual. La Guardia instanced the Aviation Conference [5], which enlarged the executive from 7 to 21.

We are aiming to get the whole question referred to the new Food Council for its own decision.

3. Hoover [6] has proposed regional bodies also, and both China and India support this for own area, but we see no advantage, seeing that the whole of the world's supplies must be allocated by one central group. This question might also be left to the Food Council to gain time, and we shall need your instructions.

4. Under the new organization, the London Food Council [7] will have a minor place. Australia and New Zealand, both of which decided in 1942 to work through London, must now reconsider that policy. Canada originally chose to centre on Washington, hence her membership of CFB. The change involves staff problems which are the subject of a separate telegram. If Australia is to play a large part here in the new body we may need something equivalent to the British Food Mission or the Canadian staff. There will be the Food Council, the Central Committee and the existing thirteen commodity committees. [8] There is also to be a new international secretariat, which will be associated in some way with F.A.0.

1 A special conference of F.A.0. was called from 20 to 27 May in Washington to consider urgent food problems. On 3 May F.A.O.'s Director-General, Sir John Orr, wrote to the Australian Legation in Washington that wartime and emergency organisations (the Combined Food Board in Washington, UNRRA, the Food Committee of the Emergency Economic Committee for Europe) were to be disbanded in 1946, and that F.A.0. had no executive powers. He therefore suggested prolonging existing organisations. At the conference the members of the Combined Food Board (United States, United Kingdom and Canada) proposed its re-constitution until at least 31 December 1947, as the International Emergency Food Council.

2 The Combined Food Board had no such powers, but through a series of commodity committees it monitored supply and recommended on allocation of scarce foodstuffs. it had been proposed that the new body operate similarly.

3 This proposal was withdrawn after debate.

4 The U.S.-U.K.-Canadian draft proposed that membership of the new body be open to all states represented on the commodity committees of the Combined Food Board, and that it comprise commodity committees and a central committee to consider policy and resolve international differences, the central committee to include the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, with four elected members.

5 i.e. the International Civil Aviation Conference, Chicago, 1 November - 7 December 1944.

6 Herbert Hoover, the Honorary Chairman of U.S. Govt's Famine Emergency Committee.

7 The London Food Council coordinated British Commonwealth (other than Canadian) information for presentation to the Combined Food Board in Washington.

8 Australia had been a member of the Cereals Committee since 1943 and was seeking membership of the Fertilizers Committee.

[AA:A1067, ER46/10/19]