No. 218.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Fish.

No. 424.]

Sir: I transmit herewith an article published in one of the newspapers of this city, written by Hon. Matias Romero, deputy in the Federal Congress, former minister of finance, and also of the Mexican legation in Washington, discussing the question of a reciprocity treaty [Page 406] with the United States, especially in its relation to sugar production in Mexico. The press of this capital has noticed with considerable favor the propositions introduced into Congress and the discussion in the American papers on the subject of commercial reciprocity.

I am, &c.,


Exportation of Mexican sugar.

[From the Correo del Comercio, Mexico, Friday, July 7, 1876.]

I think that the articles which I have published up to the present in regard to the exportation of Mexican sugar demonstrate beyond all doubt that in the present state of this important product in foreign markets it would be impossible for us to export more sugar than that which may be placed in port at a cost which does not exceed four dollars per quintal. As a general rule, those plantations only which are on the coast or very close to the place of shipment will be able to place their products in port at that price, and the inevitable result will be that the exportation will be reduced to a very limited section of country; since, owing to the unpeopled condition of our coasts, the plantations established upon them, or those which may be established, are few; and the products of sugar plantations situated in the interior of the country, which latter are the more numerous, represent larger capital, and have capacity for a large production, cannot be exported.

Even introducing all the economy possible, I doubt much whether these plantations will succeed in placing their products in port at that cost; and in this case it is indispensable to look for other means of securing the exportation of our sugar. One of these might be the measure recommended by President Grant to the Congress of the United States, to establish differential duties in favor of the products of countries where slavery does not exist, which, for reasons which I stated in one of my preceding articles on this subject, would cause the price of our sugar to rise in the markets of New York. But this measure is tardy, and we have no means of influencing its adoption, for which reason we should not rely solely upon it.

There is another measure which, in my opinion, would be entirely efficacious in accomplishing this important object, and which I think it is in our power to realize. This measure consists in forming a treaty of reciprocity with the United States, by virtue of which Mexican sugar may be admitted free of duty in that country, we admitting in exchange, also free of duty, some equivalent product of North American industry.

This would be equivalent to conceding a premium in favor of our sugar equal to the value of the duties, which premium upon the poorest kind of sugar would be more than two dollars per quintal in American gold, and that would be sufficient to make the exportation profitable, which at the present is ruinous.

In order to proceed upon equitable bases, we should concede free of duty the importation of some product of North American industry, the one which at the present time produces for us a sum equivalent to that which our sugar imported by the neighboring nation would produce for the Treasury of the United States. This, in the latter case, would become a premium conceded by the Mexican treasury upon the exportation of Mexican sugar.

I judge the ratification of a treaty of reciprocity with the United States to be a matter easily accomplished, because, on the 30th of January, 1875, the Government of Washington formed one with the King of the Sandwich Islands, in which muscovado and unrefined sugars are specifically enumerated as among the products of those islands which are admitted free of duty in the United States. It is true that this treaty encountered some opposition in the House of Representatives of the United States; but, according to my information, this was due to the fact that it was believed, for reasons which it is not to the point to enumerate here, that a few speculators were the only ones who would profit by the treaty. Nevertheless the treaty, or rather the law necessary for its execution, was approved by the House of Representatives, although by a small majority. It is probable that the Senate, which ratified the treaty on the 18th of March, 1875, will approve the supplementary law necessary for its execution.

For several years the exportation of Mexican sugar to the United States would not be very great; consequently the loss which the North American Treasury would suffer on account of the exemption would also be small. When the good results of the traffic would be seen, it is probable that the production of sugar would be increased in order to take advantage of the profits which it would produce, and from that time it would assume greater proportions.

[Page 407]

In 1859 the Government of the United States concluded a reciprocity treaty with the constitutional government of Mexico, which was then located in Vera Cruz, and although disapproved by the Senate of the United States, the latter was due to certain other stipulations and not to that referring to commercial reciprocity.

It is to be believed that Hon. John W. Foster, minister of the United States in Mexico, who has made a careful study of the means of increasing the commercial relations between the two countries, as is shown in his speech delivered in New Orleans on the 18th of November, 1875, is interested in this important question, and that he would be disposed to recommend to his Government an arrangement equally advantageous to both countries.

The Congress and the press of the United States are occupied at present with this important matter. General Gibson, member of Congress from Louisiana, presented to the House of Representatives the project of a law the ultimate object of which is the conclusion of a reciprocity treaty with Mexico. I have not been able to procure the text of this proposition; but, as I have been informed, it is proposed in it that the President of the United States name three commissioners and invite the President of Mexico to appoint three others, who jointly shall propose the basis of a reciprocity treaty. This project passed to the Committee on Commerce, and Mr. Reagan, to whom its disposal was encharged, has promised to present a favorable report.

Besides this, Mr. Lutrell, Representative from California, presented the project of another law in regard to the same subject, which should be considered as the complement of the proposition of General Gibson.

The matter was considered of such importance in the House of Representatives, at Washington, that notwithstanding the fact that-the Committee on Commerce had presented a report contrary to the renewal of the treaty of commercial reciprocity with Canada, General Ward, Representative from New York, succeeded in fixing the attention of the House upon this subject.

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I sincerely desire that persons of greater ability than myself should give their attention to this matter, which can do so much towards promoting the progress of our country and the development of its elements of wealth.