No. 431.
Mr. Boker to Mr. Evarts.

No. 224.]

Sir: I have the honor to forward to you herewith a communication addressed to me by two American merchants residing at St. Petersburg, complaining of differential duties exacted against citizens of the United States upon the three articles of tools, sugars, and wine, and stating that in their belief this is contrary to the stipulations of the treaty of 1832.

You will observe that this differential duty is indirect, the Russian Government taxing certain articles imported by land less than those imported by sea.

I have had some conversation with the British ambassador upon this subject, and he tells me that the question was submitted to the law officers of the Crown, and that they advised Her Majesty’s Government that this differential duty was not one of which they could complain as contrary to their treaty stipulations.

I have also spoken to Mr. de Rentern, the able minister of finance, informally upon the subject, and have received from him a communication, of which I send you a copy and a translation. You will perceive that as regards sugars there is now no cause for complaint. As regards tools and wines, he takes the ground that there is no discrimination against any one nation, as all nations can send by land if so disposed.

I am farther informed, unofficially, that, as regards tools, this discrimination is simply a matter of protection to Russian manufactures, the manufacturers of Toula fearing the competition of American, English, and French tools, but having no fear of those produced in Germany and Austria.

I have the honor, also, to send you a copy of the Russian tariff translated into English. It is possible that the Treasury may not have a copy, and that it may be of service to the Secretary. It is recommended to me as a model of clear arrangement and classification.

I have the honor, &c.,

[Page 748]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 224.]

Complaint of American merchants of differential import duties in the Russian tariff.

The Hon. Geo. H. Boker,
Minister of the United States of America at St. Petersburg, Russia:

Sir: The undersigned, American merchants at St. Petersburg, beg leave to call your attention to the existence of differential import duties in the Russian tariff, as follows:

Duties on hardware.

Duties on wines and spirits.

Duties on sugars.

  • First. The duties on tools, as specified in paragraph 173 of the “Tariff of import duties,” is levied at the rate of 50 copecks per pood on articles imported by land, while on those imported by sea they are at the rate of 80 copecks per pond.
  • Second. The duties on wine and other drinks in casks brought in by land over the western frontier, as will be seen by the general observation following paragraph 80 of the “Tariff of import duties,” are subject to a rebate of 8 per cent.
  • Third. The duty on sugar, as specified in paragraph 73 of the “Tariff of import duties,” is levied at the rate of 2 roubles and 50 copecks per pood when brought in by land, but on that which is brought in by sea it is at the rate of 3 roubles per pood.

As the usual method of bringing these productions of the United States of America is by sea, while those of Austria and Germany only usually come in by land, because of the contiguity of those countries, it follows that, in the cases above cited, the productions of the United States of America are discriminated against to the extent of 60 per cent, in hardware, about 9 per cent, in wines and spirits, and 20 per cent. in sugars.

In the first the United States of America are already large exporters, and the differential duty goes far to shut us out of this market.

In the second, the trade in spirits, distilled from apples and from peaches, might be made considerable, while the increase of the wine production and of spirits distilled therefrom is already of sufficient importance to warrant a beginning of exportation from the United States of America to Russia.

The article of maple sugar is of smaller importance, but this restriction tends to discourage the importation of that also into Russia.

We call your attention to these facts, in the hope that through your intervention the tariff may be made conformable to treaty stipulations.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 224.—Translation.]

The minister of finance to Mr. Boker.

Sir: In returning herewith the memorandum of the American merchants residing in Russia, which your excellency sent to me, I have the honor to inform you as follows:

Since 1872 all sugars pay the same duty, no matter by what route they are imported into Russia, whether by land or by sea. This duty is at present 2 roubles 10 copecks the pood for unrefined and 3 roubles 10 copecks for refined sugar. For the year 1878 it is fixed at 2 roubles the pood for the first, and at 3 roubles for the second. Thus the first request of the American merchants is already obtained by the modifications introduced into the tariff now in force.

As regards the other requests set forth by the signers of the memorandum, points 2 and 3, the question there raised of differential duties was discussed in its time by a special commission appointed for the examination of the tariff, and in conformity with its determinations the council of the empire decided to retain them upon a very limited number of articles of commerce. The difference in the duties depending upon the route of importation extends to all products subject to these duties, without any distinction as regards the place whence these articles came. Therefore, being obligatory for all countries which are in commercial relations with Russia, this difference constitutes no privilege in favor Of the continental states.

Your excellency, therefore, will admit that under these conditions the existence of differential duties cannot be considered as an infraction of Article XI of the treaty of commerce, concluded in 1832–’33, between Russia and the United States of America.

Receive, &c., &c.,