99 Record Of Conversation By Shaw [1]

5th April, 1955


Trade Talks Between Australia and Japan The Japanese Ambassador called at our request.

He was handed a Note, dated 5th April, 1955 [2], suggesting that 'there would be mutual advantages in arranging informal and purely exploratory talks between the Embassy and Australian officials representing the Departments primarily concerned'.

After his appointment had been arranged but before the Ambassador had called, the First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy, Mr Yamamoto, conveyed the impression to Mr Critchley of this Department that the Japanese hoped that we would not give them a formal note requesting trade talks. Further contact with Yamamoto since the event has confirmed our belief that the Japanese are happy with the suggestion for informal talks but would have been embarrassed by a more formal request which would have had to be circulated more widely within the Japanese Government.

Mr Nishi's first reaction was to refer to Japan's wish to become a Contracting Party to G.A.T.T. It seems clear that, in any discussions which take place, this question of Japanese membership and probably the related questions of applying G.A.T.T. as between Australia and Japan and conducting tariff negotiations between Australia and Japan will be uppermost in the minds of the Japanese.

Our response to Mr Nishi's query about the Australian attitude to G.A.T.T. was:-

(i) that the Australian Government would have to consider the Report of the Delegation to the G.A.T.T. Review Conference before the future Australian attitude to G.A.T.T. was determined and that this consideration would probably take some time;

(ii) that the question of Japan's accession would not come up until later this year and the Government's attitude would be decided then.

Although these considerations were turned over by Mr Nishi for some time, he did not press them unduly. Finally after some deliberation, the Ambassador said that he welcomed our suggestion for informal talks.

We explained to Mr Nishi that the Note deliberately did not attempt to set down topics to be discussed since we felt that the way should be left clear for the introduction of any topics from either side. We explained too that we had in mind that the talks should reveal the ground that might possibly be covered in more formal talks later, if they seemed appropriate, and that we did not contemplate that any commitments by either Government would emerge from these informal talks. Finally, we suggested that the talks might be conducted between members of the Embassy staff and officers of the Departments concerned and that we contemplated no formal dispatch of a Japanese delegation to Australia.

The Ambassador accepted these points. He said that he might wish to visit Tokyo before the talks commenced. In any event, and especially since many of the relevant Japanese officials were engaged in tariff negotiations in Geneva, he would probably not be able to get instructions to enable the talks to commence immediately. We agreed that, particularly because of Australian- German trade talks which would occupy much the same Australian officials, we could not ourselves start talks immediately and in fact would not be ready until early May. Mr Nishi seemed content with this.

The Ambassador particularly asked that the informal talks be regarded as strictly confidential and that there be no announcement and no leakage either to the effect that talks were being held or what their content might be. We agreed that this should be.

The Ambassador will presumably get in touch with us again as soon as he has had an opportunity to consult his Government.

1 Dr J.W.C. Cumes, Acting Head, Economic Relations Branch, DEA, was also present.

2 Document 98.

[AA : A1838/283, 759/1/7, ii]