15 Memorandum By Department Of Commerce & Agriculture

3rd July, 1952


Japanese-Australia Commercial Relations


(A) Japan's Request under Peace Treaty In cable 384, dated 30th April, 1952, the Australian Mission, Tokyo, advised that a Note Verbale had been received from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking advice as to the basis on which trading, maritime and other commercial relations between Japan and Australia are to be placed with the coming into force of the Peace Treaty (28th April). The Ministry wishes to be informed regarding the extent to which Australia intends to accord Japan national or m.f.n. treatment as provided for in Article 12 of the Peace Treaty, pending the conclusion of an agreement. The note indicates Japan desires this advice as a prerequisite to fulfilment of its obligations under Article 12(c), and that the Japanese Government thinks commercial relations can be promoted if mutual m.f.n. treatment is accorded.

2. Article 12 provides, inter alia:

'(a) Japan declares its readiness promptly to enter into negotiations for the conclusion with each of the Allied Powers of treaties or agreements to place their trading, maritime and other commercial relations on a stable and friendly basis.

(b) Pending the conclusion of the relevant treaty or agreement, Japan will, during a period of four years from the first coming into force of the present Treaty:

(i) accord to each of the Allied Powers:

(i) most-favoured-nation treatment with respect to customs duties, charges, restrictions and other regulations on or in connection with the importation and exportation of goods...

(c) In respect to any matter, however, Japan shall be obliged to accord to an Allied Power national treatment, or most-favoured- nation treatment, only to the extent that the Allied Power concerned accords Japan national treatment or most-favoured-nation treatment, as the case may be, in respect of the same matter...'

3. It will be noted that Japan's obligation is to grant m.fn., pending conclusion of a Treaty or agreement, during a period of four years from the commencement of the Peace Treaty, and then only if, and to the extent that, the Allied Power is extending m.f.n. to Japan.

4. Australia could, if she wished, reply to the Japanese note to the effect that she is not at present according m.f.n. treatment to Japan, and give no indication of her future intentions. It would then remain to be seen whether Japan discriminated in favour of other countries.

(B) Principal Issues

5. The question as to whether we should propose the mutual accord of m.f.n. treatment with Japan has four sides:

1. The economic advantages and disadvantages of Australia granting m.f.n. tariff treatment to Japanese imports;

2. The economic advantages, if any, of obtaining m.f.n. treatment from Japan for Australian exports;

3. Political issues;

4. Related to these issues is the international aspect, e.g.

Japan's position in relation to the sterling area as a whole, and in relation to GATT.

6. Aspect 1 is, of course, principally a matter for the Department of Trade and Customs. It is understood that Customs are now examining this aspect, but the main economic factors to be considered would be:

(a) the effects on Australian industry and consumers of reduced duties on Japanese imports;

(b) the effects on imports into Australia from British preferential countries, mainly the UK;

(c) the present Australian import restrictions on Japanese goods;

(d) present by-law admission of Japanese goods;

(e) the question of whether Japan should be requested, if m.f.n.

were offered, to give compensatory concessions for reductions in Australian duties already negotiated by Australia through GATT;

(f) whether it is too early to make an evaluation of the above factors because of the present uncertainty regarding the future status of Japanese industry and trade.

[matter omitted]

25. SUMMARY REGARDING AUSTRALIAN EXPORTS TO JAPAN (1) Japan is apparently not discriminating in her tariff in favour of any country at present, and no advantage for our exports could therefore be gained at present by obtaining m.f.n. treatment from Japan.

(2) The Japanese tariff does provide for discrimination through 'arrangements' and for punitive duties against goods from countries which do not accord Japanese goods m.f.n. treatment. In the future, therefore, there may be some advantages to be gained.

(3) The principal Australian exports to Japan are now admitted duty free by that country. In view of the fact that these commodities are in world short supply, are sought by Japan, and are raw materials and foodstuffs, it would not be in Japan's interests to impose higher duties on them. Despite this, a number of our exports are subject to duty, some relatively high (presumably mainly for revenue purposes), and Japan could grant tariff concessions on them to other countries.

(4) Japan is an important market for Australian exports.

(5) The question arises whether, if it is decided in favour of m.f.n. treatment, Japan should be called on to make compensatory concessions for deductions already made in the Australian tariff.

(F) International Aspect 26. The United Kingdom is at present according Japan m.f.n. tariff treatment. They have announced, however, that in order to safeguard UK industry they would not enter any formal commitment to grant Japan m.f.n. treatment.

27. The UK Government has also announced that they are unwilling to accept Japanese participation in GATT (it was announced in the Japanese press on 3rd June 1952, that Japan is pushing preparations for applying for membership of GATT).

28. Some other countries, e.g. India, are making arrangements to extend m.f.n. treatment to Japan.

29. In view of the serious imbalance of trade of the sterling area with Japan (the accumulated deficit is now over S100m), it is very desirable that any possible action be taken which might improve this position.

30. If, therefore, the mutual accord of m.f.n. treatment between Japan and Australia could improve Australia's relative trading position, such action should be encouraged for this reason. (On the other hand, of course, the grant of m.f.n. to Japanese imports could increase the sterling deficit.) 31. The grant of m.f.n. might also assist Australian and sterling area exports to Japan by the creation of goodwill in Japan. This might tend to encourage the present trend in Japan to look more to the sterling area, which attitude is resulting from Japan's growing dollar deficit.

32. Any decision to withhold m.f.n. from Japan could cause her to become antagonistic to the sterling area, and affect the direction of her import trade.

The question of the desirability of an economically strong Japan is also relevant.

(G) Conclusions (a) Japan was Australia's second best market from 1929/30 to 1935/6, and is again rapidly approaching her pre-war importance.

The trade war which began in 1936 seriously affected our export trade, and it is desirable to avoid such a position in the future.

(b) Because of the present Japanese tariff we would have little, if anything, to gain by way of tariff concessions if Japan accorded Australia m.f.n. treatment now, but there may be advantages later should Japan discriminate in favour of other countries.

(c) The mutual accord of m.f.n. treatment is desirable if it would result in an increase of Australian exports to Japan, and a reduction of the sterling area's imbalance.

(d) The question of mutual m.f.n. treatment is, however, mainly dependent on the desirability of Australia granting m.f.n. on Japanese goods imported into Australia.

(e) The question needs to be considered in relation to Japanese entry into GATT. If it is decided to grant Japan m.f.n., it may be better to do this through GATT so that compensatory concessions could be obtained from Japan for reductions made in the Australian tariff. In addition, Japanese membership of GATT would be some assurance of Japan adhering to GATT principles.

(f) Should it not be considered desirable to grant m.f.n.

treatment to Japan at present, our reply to the Japanese note could simply be that Australia is not granting m.f.n. to Japan at present but that certain by-law concessions are extended to Japan, and that the question of m.f.n. treatment will be considered:

(a) when it is clear how trade will develop between the two countries; or (b) when application is made by Japan for membership of GATT.

(However, this step should not be taken if it is not proposed to make an agreement with Japan under GATT or if we intend to oppose Japanese membership.

[AA : A609/1, 555/120/4, i]