No.49 NAI DFA 7/22

Memorandum from Joseph P. Walshe to the Secretaries of the Departments of Industry and Commerce,1


and Agriculture3

(Dublin) on the Ottawa Conference, with attached note of discussion

Dublin, 17 May 1932

Ottawa Conference

I attach a note of the discussion which took place on Friday, 13th instant, in Mr. McElligott's room on the issue whether the Saorstát should or should not be represented at Ottawa. I gave this note to the Minister for External Affairs, and following his instructions I informed the Ottawa Government by cable on Saturday that our delegation would be constituted as follows: three Ministers, four advisers, six experts, two typists, one general secretary.

I enclose a copy of a memorandum addressed by me to the Minister on the 22nd March.4 You will find in it a summary of our position up to that date. There has been no change since then. Our information is still as non-existent.

[matter omitted]

For the moment therefore it appears unlikely that we shall be given any further material to aid in our preparations, and the Minister for External Affairs desires that we should get to work at once independently of the British.

[matter omitted]

[stamped] (Signed) J.P. Walshe


Meeting of Secretaries of the Departments of Finance, External Affairs, Industry and Commerce and Agriculture on the 13th May to answer the President's query whether in effect there were any sound reasons for going to the Conference.

The officials mentioned met in Mr. McElligott's room at 10.30 this morning. They came to the conclusion that abstention from the Conference would probably involve grave risks to Saorstaát interests in the British market. This conclusion was based on the following considerations:

  1. A general agreement of some sort must result from the Conference. If there were no agreement all present concessions to Dominions would cease as from the 15th November. A general disturbance in the economic relations between Great Britain and the Dominions would follow. Great Britain by fixing a definite date for the cessation of these concessions failing an agreement has made an agreement an inevitable necessity.
  2. Joint action at Ottawa has a much better chance of success than isolated action by the Saorstát at a later date. Great Britain would demand bigger concessions for similar preferences.
  3. Joint action will be necessary to secure advantages against Denmark and the Argentine. Both these countries are ready to make big sacrifices to secure concessions from Great Britain. Great Britain favours the Argentine because of the very large amount of British capital invested there. Great Britain has far more capital invested in the Argentine than in Ireland. The Argentine could supply Great Britain with all the meat she requires. The Englishman is becoming accustomed to chilled meat.
  4. The maintenance of the present preference of 10% in Butter, Eggs and Poultry is essential for the development of this branch of our export trade. The possibility of getting a similar preference for Bacon and Meat would be greatly increased by joint action with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The necessity of maintaining the present position would alone be a sufficient reason to go to Ottawa.
  5. It is easier for the British to find markets for their present exports to us than vice versa. Moreover other countries with which trade might be developed could more easily place obstacles in the way of our trade. Great Britain has to consider the opinion of the whole Commonwealth. External countries would only consider their own particular interests.
  6. Our absence from Ottawa might result in Great Britain making agreements with Denmark and the Argentine detrimental to our interests before she consented to bargain with us.
  7. Our Beer, Spirits, Condensed Milk, Linen, Woollens, Textiles, Tractors, would all suffer at once in advance of the inevitable results of the cessation of the preferences on the 15th November.
  8. Currency. A line of cleavage has developed between sterling countries and gold countries. It is most important for us to know the future line of development of sterling countries. Monetary policy is going to play a pre-dominant part in world recovery. An Empire currency would involve the foundation of a central Bank for the whole Commonwealth. We must be present to prevent or encourage developments according to our own requirements and policy. Countries on sterling having freed themselves from gold are likely to adopt a more forward policy in relation to price level. It is essential to secure all the information available at Ottawa on this question. We must at least have knowledge of developments which are bound to affect us vitally.

1 John Leydon.

2 James J. McElligott.

3 Francis J. Meyrick.

4 See above No. 20.

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