Economic Development Programme—Aid to Vietnam
Undertaking to assist Indo-China
You will recall that on 11th March, 1953, you and M. Jean Letoumeau1 issued a joint communique which, in part, reads:
'Australia is also prepared to assist in the economic development of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia under the Colombo Plan. Australia could provide in the relatively near future cattle and other livestock, earth moving equipment, trucks and hospital equipment and, at a later date, railway rolling stock and equipment. Detailed discussions on assistance under the Colombo Plan are to be undertaken with the Governments of the Associated States by the Australian Minister at Saigon.'
Request from Vietnam
2. Following M. Letoumeau's visit and discussions between the local authorities and the Australian Minister in Saigon,2 the Vietnamese Government supplied a list of requests under the Colombo Plan.
3. The items in this list have been discussed with the Department of the Treasury and the Director of Colombo Plan Supplies to determine their cost and availability in Australia and whether or not Treasury would raise any objections against their export.
4. Attached are:
(a) A list and the approximate prices of those goods which we could supply from Australian production and without objection from Treasury.
(b) A list of goods for which the Vietnamese have asked, but which we cannot supply because of currency difficulties.
Offer to supply
5. It now seems appropriate to make a specific offer to Vietnam. Probably the best way of doing this is to ask our Minister in Saigon to return the Vietnamese list to them with notations showing the availability and cost of various items. At the same time, the Minister could be asked to indicate to the Vietnamese Government the items which we could most easily and readily supply and which are likely to make an effective contribution to the country's economic development. The particular items we have in mind are road rollers and tractors. The Vietnamese have asked for �200,000 worth of these goods.
6. Although our 1952-53 allocations have not yet been decided, it would not compromise our position if we were to make Vietnam an immediate offer of, say, �100,000. A smaller offer would hardly honour our commitment or be of any real value.
7. In the longer term, we could probably look to providing Vietnam with a further �200,000 worth of equipment during the remaining period of the Plan. This figure would cover expenditure on all the remaining equipment for which the Vietnamese have asked and which we are in a position to supply. On some of the equipment, radio transmitters for instance, there would probably be a delivery delay of upwards to two (2) years from the date the order is placed. Total aid of �300,000 to Vietnam over the period of the Plan would not be out of proportion to the totals which we are likely to provide to other countries.
8. To date, we have had only the most tentative indications of requests which we are likely to receive from Laos or Cambodia. We do not anticipate that we will be required to supply very much equipment to either of these countries and it certainly should not be as large as the Vietnamese figure.
9. It is recommended that:
(i) You authorise an immediate offer of �100,000 worth of road-making and agricultural equipment selected from items under those headings in the attached list being made to Vietnam under the Economic Development programme.
(ii) The Minister at Saigon be—
(a) asked to convey the above offer to the Vietnamese Government.
(b) asked to tell the Vietnamese that we are still considering the remainder of their list. In addition, he should also tell them of the items which it is not possible for us to supply.3
(c) told for his own information only that we are thinking of �300,000 as total Colombo Plan aid to Vietnam for the duration of the Plan and that he should keep this in mind in his discussions with the Vietnamese authorities.4
[NAA: A4529, 65/1/1/1953]