HC Deb 26 May 1960 vol 624 cc651-2
3. Sir L. Ropner

asked the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations what assurances he has sought from the Government of India that the agreement between that country and the United States of America for the shipment of 17 million tons of wheat and rice from the United States of America does not entail flag discrimination to the disadvantage of British shipping; and what assurances he has received.

Mr. R. Thompson

None, Sir. As the Minister of Transport said yesterday, the Governments of the United States and India are well aware of our views concerning the imposition of shipping conditions in transactions of this kind.

Sir L. Ropner

The whole of this agreement cannot be considered to be a very friendly act either on the part of the United States or of a member of the Commonwealth. Is my hon. Friend aware that quite recently American ships have been chartered to carry wheat from the United States to India at a fixed rate of freight of £9 at a time when the ships of the United Kingdom were compelled to accept a rate of freight only 2s. 6d. over £3? Can my hon. Friend say whether under this agreement the U.S.A. will not only obtain a monopoly of the carriage of 8½ million tons of grain but will also gain competitively by receiving a very high rate of freight?

Mr. Thompson

The amount of carriage reserved to the United States under this agreement is 50 per cent. and in that respect the agreement does not differ markedly from three earlier ones. My hon. and gallant Friend will recall what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said to him yesterday, that he will watch this position carefully, and, if necessary, make representations if that seems appropriate.

Mr. Kershaw

Does not my hon. Friend agree that this agreement is a breach of G.A.T.T. by the United States? Will he draw the attention of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to that fact in the forthcoming negotiations for a revision of the terms of that treaty?

Mr. Thompson

I am certain that my right hon. Friend will take notice of what my hon. Friend has said on that subject.

Mr. Callaghan

What commercial freedom has India had in these transactions? Is this a free bargain between two independent countries, or is this grain part of a gift, a loan or aid of some sort, in which case any representations should be directed to the United States? Does not it appear that the United States is applying pressure, because of its willingness to supply the grain?

Mr. Thompson

That is broadly correct. These agreements are subject to United States legislation, which requires a shipping clause in aid grants, and the beneficiary under the shipping clause is the United States.

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