§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I am glad to inform the House that an Agreement on trade and payments has been reached between the United Kingdom and Argentine Governments. This Agreement is expected to be formally concluded by an exchange of notes this week.
The Agreement provides for the purchase by the United Kingdom Government from the Argentine during the remainder of the year 1948 and early 1949 of essential foods and animal feedingstuffs valued at about £110 millions.
The Agreement also provides for early payment by the Argentine Government of the purchase price of the British-owned Argentine railways, i.e. £150 millions. To facilitate this the United Kingdom Government will make pre-payment of the cost of the United Kingdom food purchase programme.
As regards exports from the United Kingdom to the Argentine, His Majesty's Government have agreed to facilitate the supply during 1948 of certain important commodities including one million tons of coal and some two million tons of petroleum products.
The Argentine Government have agreed to give most favoured nation treatment to the import of British goods and to grant import permits to the value of £10 millions in 1948 for United Kingdom goods hitherto subject to restriction. The President of the Argentine Republic has also given an assurance that this figure will be substantially increased if, later in the year, the general situation permits.
Recognising the need to increase to a maximum the means of payment available to the United Kingdom the Argentine Government have agreed that their Departments will, other things being equal, give preference to United Kingdom firms in making purchases.
Lastly the Agreement provides that all payments between the Sterling Area and the Argentine shall continue to be settled in sterling.
838 These arrangements will make it necessary to alter the amount of the Supplementary Estimate for the Ministry of Food which was presented to the House on 2nd February. A revised Supplementary Estimate is being prepared and will be circulated within the next few days.
I am sure the House will share the satisfaction of His Majesty's Government that it has been found possible to reach an agreement which provides not only for the maintenance, but for the development of the traditionally close economic ties between the two countries. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking Sir Clive Bailleu and his team of negotiators for the very good and hard work which they have put in over three months in Buenos Aires. I would also offer my gratitude to the Ambassador, Sir Rex Leeper, for the very skilful way in which he has assisted in the negotiations.
§ Mr. Oliver Lyttelton
We on this side of the House are glad to hear that these very protracted negotiations have now been concluded. We are without sufficient details on which to make further comment which, I think, had perhaps better wait until later. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer intend to incorporate the terms in a White Paper?
§ Captain John Crowder
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the position with regard to the blocked sterling of £125 million which the Argentine Government have in this country? Is that being taken into account?
§ Sir S. Cripps
It is being taken into account, but it is a complicated matter concerning the A and B accounts of the Argentine, and perhaps the hon. and gallant Member had better wait until he sees the Agreement.
§ Sir W. Smithers
To what extent is the price of Argentine Railways a factor in this Agreement? Can the Leader of the House tell us whether we shall have the opportunity of debating this on the Supplementary Estimate?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The price was agreed a long time ago for Argentine Railways. The only thing that has been a factor in this has been the payment of the price, and not the price.