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Anglo-Argentine Trade Agreement

Volume 466: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1949

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. WILLIAM TEELING:

65. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement on the Anglo-Argentine Trade Agreement; what protests he has received from foreign countries concerning its effects on agreements made by His Majesty's Government with other countries; and what replies he has made.

At the end of Questions

With permission, I will answer Question No. 65.

I am glad to inform the House that the Anglo-Argentine Trade and Payments Agreement was signed in Buenos Aires yesterday. I hope that it will be possible to publish the full text of the Agreement in a White Paper early next week; we must of course, await receipt of a duly authenticated copy, which is being sent by air.

I am satisfied that this very comprehensive agreement will be of substantial advantage to both countries and will strengthen their economies. It is also the opinion of His Majesty's Government that the agreement is not inconsistent either with our long-term objective of convertibility and multilateral trading or with the obligations which we have assumed in regard to third countries.

The Agreement provides that all payments shall be in sterling and that both parties shall endeavour to ensure the approximate balance of payments at the highest possible level. Hitherto we have imported from Argentina more than we have exported to her. Argentina has now agreed to give facilities which will allow for our exports to be approximately doubled as compared with 1948. This will obviously require a special effort from our exporters. The Argentines are, however, willing to take a very wide range of our products. There is no reason why we should not increase our exports to Argentina without prejudicing our exports to the dollar area.

The only long-term contract to be made under this Agreement is for meat. Under the agreement, we have been given a firm undertaking that we shall receive not less than 300,000 tons of carcase beef, mutton and lamb in the first year, and in addition the Argentines will use their best endeavours to supply not less than 400,000 tons each year. Our undertakings in respect of other imports, and the Argentine's undertakings in respect of United Kingdom exports, are conditional upon agreement on prices and quality, and trade will be conducted through the customary channels.

I should like to pay tribute to the negotiating skill of our Ambassador, Sir John Balfour, and his team and to the readiness of Senhor Bramuglia and his colleagues to co-operate in reaching agreement on the difficult problems which inevitably arose in such comprehensive negotiations.

I would suggest that questions on the details of the Agreement should be postponed until the White Paper is available.

While thanking the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that statement, may I ask him if we may now hope that the negotiations for the acquisition of the remaining British-owned utilities and the payment of compensation for such acquisition, not referred to in the Agreement, will be immediately approached in the same friendly spirit as was the Agreement, and if we may hope that those people who have suffered much by long waiting have not been forgotten by either side?

The Argentine Government were left in no doubt in the course of our negotiations of the importance which we attach to the settlement of the affairs of public utilities, but, in that connection, I would refer the hon. Gentleman to a similar answer given to a question on 22nd June by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. There has been no change in that situation since.

Like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, we would wish to congratulate the Ambassador on the success of his efforts, and, while we recognise that we cannot very well ask for more details now, there is one question of paramount importance, if the Chancellor can answer it. How does the price suggested under the present Agreement compare with the price that was paid under the previous agreement?

There has been a considerable increase in the price of the meat. The average overall price for beef, mutton and lamb is £97.536 per ton.

May I ask the Chancellor whether the Governments of the Dominions, and particularly Canada, were kept generally informed during the negotiations and on the broad lines on which agreement was likely to be effected?

I think the answer is "Yes," but I would not like to say definitely without consulting my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he is aware that, however well this Agreement may be received in this country, as it undoubtedly will be, it will be enthusiastically received by the working folk of Argentina who wish for friendly relations with this country?

May we now hope that credits will quickly be made available for the payment for that vast quantity of British machinery which has been ordered by the Argentine, which has long been ready to send but could not be sent for the last 18 months on account of the delay in reaching this agreement?

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the "Daily Express" yesterday said that this trouble with the Argentine would never have arisen if the Opposition, when they had their day, had done the right thing as a Government?

May I ask if the American Government agree with the Chancellor that there has been no violation of international agreements?

I think their attitude is made quite clear by the statement put out this morning.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say anything on the very important point of the gold guarantee which is alleged to be part of this Agreement?

I would prefer the hon. and gallant Gentleman to leave that until he sees the document.

Is the increase in the price of meat, which is very nearly 1s. or over 11d. per pound, going to be passed on to the consumer or not?

That will be dealt with, as was stated in the Budget, in regard to subsidies.