Volume #13 - 929.|
Memorandum from Head, Second Political Division,|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
April 2, 1947|
EXPORT OF ARMAMENTS (INCLUDING AMMUNITION AND IMPLEMENTS OF WAR) TO FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS|
Under existing legislation,2 the export of arms from Canada is forbidden except under permit. Since the end of hostilities the only permits granted for the export of arms (not including demilitarized vessels or army clothing) have been: (a) for export to the United Kingdom and China where provision had been made under Mutual Aid; (h) for the export of 6,000,000 rounds of rifle cartridges and some armoured vehicles to the Netherlands; (c) 50 revolvers for Dr. Peralta of Mexico City. (Arms, surplus to Canadian military requirements and located in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have been sold to the Netherlands; this sale did not, of course, involve any export permit.)
(e) to sell freely to all countries. Mr. Robertson pointed out that the second course would lay us open to charges of discrimination from the countries we had already refused and would put us in the position of paralleling the arms policy of the United States while our political interest in Latin America was neither as great as nor identical with that of the United States. The adoption of the third eourse might involve strong protests from the United States Government. Mr. Robertson therefore recommended the adoption of the first course of action.
The Cabinet's decision of May 24, 1946, was that the policy of review by the Government of each individual proposal for the sale of arms to foreign governments (other than the United Kingdom and the United States) on its merits should be continued. The interpretation which has in practice been put on this decision is that the Department of External Affairs screens all requests for purchase of armaments and refers to Cabinet for decision only those requests which the Department of External Affairs recommends should be granted or about which it is in doubt. In practice no export permits have been granted apart from the exceptions mentioned in paragraph I.
One consideration which is relevant in the determination of Canadian policy on the export of arms is whether arms supplied by Canada might be used in a way which would be repugnant to a large number of Canadians, e.g., (a) in pacifying rebellious colonial peoples, (b) in a civil war in China, (c) in civil disputes, especially in Latin America, or (d) by a country which, as the result of a change in government or in policy, became unfriendly to the Western world or dominated to a very great extent by the Soviet Union.
Another consideration is that the export of arms, especially to countries such as China or the Latin American republics or for use against colonial peoples might well provide the Soviet propaganda machine with useful propaganda material.
There is also the danger that exports of arms for use against colonial peoples or to strengthen existing governments in Latin America would arouse the hostility of the opposition groups in those countries and that when these groups come into power their hostility might affect the prospects of friendly relations with Canada including the possibility of expanding our trade. These groups might also refuse to honour credits incurred by previous governments if these credits had been used, even in part, for the purchase of arms.
Any substantial change in our past practice of turning down virtually all requests for arms would mean that we would have to explain to the governments whose requests we have turned down in the past, why we turned down their requests and granted the requests of other countries.
It is clearly important that in a delicate and difficult matter such as the export of arms we should try to keep our policy in line with that of the United States and the United Kingdom and that we should not get our fingers burned in controversies between them or become a stalking-horse for one of them especially since there is danger of a "sale of armaments race" between them. This sort of race would undoubtedly be a cause of friction between them. If we were to get involved in the race, there is danger that we would get in wrong with one or both of them. On the other hand, if we refuse to export arms at the request of either or both we may find that one of them will fill the orders which we refused to fill.
On Argentina the State Department is particularly touchy, Mr. Hiekerson of the State Department who has never taken an extreme line on Argentina is nevertheless of the opinion that Argentina would threaten aggression against its neighbours if it were allowed to buy as much armaments as it wants. Our difficulty, however, in the past has been that, while the State Department has pressed us very hard to follow its line on exports to Latin America and has made promises of consultation with us, it has very often failed to carry out these promises and has changed its policy without any prior consultation. The United Kingdom has never put any pressure on us but they, too, have failed to keep us informed of changes in their policy on the export of arms.
Hitherto our practice on exporting arms has been much more restrictive than that of either the United States or the United Kingdom. This is not unnatural since our political interests in some of the countries to which they have been exporting arms have not been as great as not identical with theirs. Moreover, it is easier for a great power to distinguish between potential purchasers of arms than for a power of the dimensions of Canada. Nevertheless, it would he difficult for Canada to maintain for long the position under which it was refusing to export arms to countries which could secure similar arms from the United States or the United Kingdom.
With countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States we have exceptionally close political relations and a clearly established community of defense interests. Sale of arms to those countries therefore raises no difficulties. But under present conditions of domestic and international instability abroad, when we contemplate selling to countries other than these, difficulties immediately emerge. One cause of the difficulties is that we do not know over how many countries Soviet influence is likely to extend during the next few years or what countries might he strengthened against Soviet pressure by providing them with arms cheaply and quickly. Norway, for example, has already lost some of its freedom of action under Soviet pressure and may lose more. Chile has communists in its government. Pro-Soviet (or pro-Argentine) factions may secure a measure of control in other Latin American republics. On the other hand, it might be in our interests to strengthen Turkey and Greece by providing them with Mosquitoes4 and destroyers.
The policies of the United Kingdom and the United States on the whole matter of the export of arms are in a state of some confusion. Both countries are reviewing their policies and there will probably he high-level talks in Washington after Mr. Bevin and General Marshall return from Moscow. Perhaps it might be best if it were agreed that, as an interim measure, we adopt a complete embargo on the export of arms to all countries other than the nations of the British Commonwealth and the United States, and that we immediately inform the United Kingdom and the United States that we have done this as a temporary measure pending discussions with them.
The first of the two points to discuss with the United Kingdom and the United States would be the working out of some satisfactory system for the exchange of information and for consultation on the whole problem of the export of armaments; we could make it clear that the present system under which we are not consulted by either of them before they change their polity is intolerable. The second point which we would wish to discuss with them would be the necessity of an early establishment of an effective international system for control of the international traffic in armaments.
In discussing that second point, we could stress that hitherto our hope had been that we could refrain from engaging in the arms traffic until the Security Council of United Nations had had an opportunity of considering the regulation of the traffic by international agreement. We feel that the delay in the consideration of such an agreement by the Security Council is most unfortunate and that the Security Council should immediately commence study of the problem as an urgent matter, especially in the light of its present studies on disarmament. We are, therefore, contemplating requesting the Secretary-General of the United Nations to place on the agenda of the Assembly in September, 1947, the question of the preparation of a convention providing for effective control of the international traffic in arms.
"A convention on the supervision of international trade in arms and ammunition and implements of war" was opened for signature in Geneva on June 17, 1925. It was signed by Canada on September 22, 1925, but was not ratified by Canada, It has not come into force.
The Canadian Customs Act, Section 290, as amended by Statutes 1937, Chapter 24, section 10, empowered the Governor in Council to prohibit, restrict or control the export of arms, and by P.C. 1838 of July 30th, 1937, amended by P.C. 2488 of April 8th, 1941, the export of arms was forbidden except under permit.
1Pour une étude de l'exportation d'armes à des pays de l'Amérique lutine, voir les documents 932-944; à la Chine, les documents 947, 950-951, 954-955; aux Pays-Bac, les documents 904-905.
The following is in the original:
See Appendix 3Voir le volume 12, document 1186./See Volume 12, Document 1186.