HC Deb 10 November 1943 vol 393 cc1120-1
10. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the text of the agreement between the Chinese and British Governments affecting the shipping trade on the China coast; and whether it has been agreed that China shall have the exclusive right to this trade?

Mr. Law

My hon. Friend is referring, I understand, to the Treaty for the Relinquishment of Extra-Territorial Rights in China of 11th January, 1943, printed as Command Paper 6417. Under Article 1 (g) of the Annex to the Treaty, His Majesty's Government relinquished the special rights which they had previously enjoyed as regards the coasting trade. The question of any future arrangements to be made in this respect is one for consideration when the two Governments negotiate the comprehensive treaty referred to in Article 8 of the Treaty of the 11th January.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these shipping rates were of great advantage to the shipping industry in this country and that if they are to be relinquished, as is suggested in the text of the agreement, a very severe burden will be imposed on our Mercantile Marine? Is it not desirable that this matter should be reviewed and that hon. Members should have an opportunity of discussing the matter in order to correct what is undoubtedly a serious mistake?

Mr. Law

By the Treaty to which I have referred we have relinquished in China all extra-territorial rights. I suggest to my hon. Friend that we cannot have it both ways; we cannot relinquish extra-territorial rights in China and still retain them. As I have said in the original reply, there will probably in the future be some comprehensive commercial treaty, and when that comes up this matter will be considered.

Mr. Shinwell

Yes, but entirely apart from the relinquishment of extra-territorial rights—I do not disapprove of that at all—is my right hon. Friend aware that our own navigation laws provide that foreign coasters can trade on our coasts? Why should we abrogate a privilege that has been in operation for many years and thus strike a very deadly blow at our Mercantile Marine?

Mr. Law

We shall certainly bear that in mind when the time comes for the comprehensive arrangement.

Mr. De la Bère

The Mercantile Marine must have full consideration.

Commander Agnew

Will the ports of China be free for the ships of all nations to use?

Mr. Law

We must await events. I do not think I can pronounce on a hypothetical question.

Mr. Shinwell

Does not the agreement also provide for the complete abandonment of Hong Kong?

Mr. Law

No, Sir.

Mr. Hannah

Would it not be extremely unsatisfactory that anybody should have a monopoly in the China coast trade?

Mr. Kirkwood

Have not the Chinese a right to a monopoly of it?

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