277 Brigden to Department of External Affairs

Memorandum (extract) WASHINGTON, 28 May 1946



This new body, to succeed the Combined Food Board and its Committees, is to be called into existence as soon as possible, probably next week. The procedure is to be for the C.F.B. to meet, having invited a host of other countries to attend also, and then for the assembled representatives to transform themselves into the I.E.F.C.

[matter omitted]

3. Before the I.E.F.C. is constituted, the Commodity Committees [1] may be still further enlarged to qualify national representatives for membership of I.E.F.C. It is unfortunate that no compromise has been found possible between the C.F.B. of three members and I.E.F.C. of between fifty and sixty members. The Commodity Committees will be overburdened, and efficiency has had to be abandoned under the pressure of national status and real or supposed interest. I have said in cables that Australia may need a staff comparable to that of the British Food Missions. We are instructed to be on the Central Committee, and no doubt we will be on several of the Commodity Committees also. There is nothing to add to what has been said in telegrams except to repeat the fact that the staff position has been made very much more urgent than it was.

4. I have some doubts whether we can, in fact, play our full part in this new scheme. It will probably strain staff capacities both in Canberra and Washington, though it would be useful if you could appraise the situation generally and inform us here as soon as possible.

5. The I.E.F.C. is the simplest form of organization that could be devised in the circumstances. We resisted many endeavours to build it up into a more formidable organization, with powers and authorities that would not be enforced. We deferred these claims until the question of a permanent organization is dealt with at the next F.A.0. Conference, now scheduled for Copenhagen in early September. I.E.F.C. will, therefore, be very little more than the C.F.B. was, except that it is preposterously enlarged.

6. We hope to be able to inform you shortly as to the range of information each government is to furnish through F.A.O. and directly to the I.E.F.C. The first part of this information will be precise data, furnished promptly at frequent intervals, on your allocations of all exports within the range of the new body, which at present is the same as that of the old C.F.B. Commodity Committees. We are already committed to that by the resolution of the UNRRA Council in March.

7. The relations between I.E.F.C. and the London Food Council [2] have yet to be thought out. The U.K. view is that the L.F.C. will no longer be a high level body, but that it will be necessary on 'the operational level' for implementing policies in detail.

Doubtless this idea will suit Australia, if only for the purpose of allocating to Indian Ocean and nearby areas appropriate quantities of commodities purchased in bulk by the Ministry of Food, and for shipping arrangements.

8. Hitherto, except for cereals, it has been the practice for U.K.

representatives on the C.F.B. Commodity Committees to report arrangements made in London, and to act on our behalf generally.

Our membership of the Cereals Committee cut across this practice, and proper adjustments were not made until recently, so that confusion often arose. We have attended other Committees as occasion required (especially of late) but the U.K.

representatives have always had more information than we had about Australian supplies and their export distribution.

Now we must have a new system, appropriate to the new organization.

9. It will be important always to remember that Australian contracts to supply the U.K. are not exempted from any recommended allocations which the I.E.F.C. may make. New Zealand has not understood this.

New Zealand has been willing to throw all of its food exports into a pool, to be distributed as the I.E.F.C. thinks fit, but on the tacit understanding that 'commitments' were exempted. Some other countries were willing to do the same, and the deficit countries might have been willing to start that way. It would have been unwise to agree, and we have not done so. The next step would have been a direct attack on our so-called 'bilateral agreements', which give preference to the U.K., contrary to the general principles of F.A.0. and other international authorities.

[matter omitted]

14. I do not expect that I.E.F.C. will do any better than C.F.B.

It will be much more cumbersome. But something still more difficult might have been forced upon us, and may still be imposed by majority opinion if I.E.F.C. fails to do what is possible. Such failure would, of course, react on F.A.0. and its associated bodies. Those nationals who are concerned for the welfare of F.A.0. have been trying, in the recent Conference, to protect it against such risks, but F.A.0. has chosen to take them.

[matter omitted]


1 See Document 267, notes 2 and 4.

2 See Document 267, note 7.

[AA:A1068, ER47/6/i]