Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 2, 1878
to Mr. Evarts.
St. Petersburg, November 22, 1877. (Received December 13.)
Sir: Referring to your No. 107, in regard to discriminating duties exacted by the Russian tariff, I have the honor to inform you that, in accordance with your instructions, I have addressed a note to the imperial government upon this subject. I inclose a copy of my note herewith.
I have, &c.,
Mr. Boker to Mr. de Giers.
St. Petersburg, November 19, 1877.
Excellency: About the time of its date I received from certain American merchants a memorial, a copy of which I inclose, calling my attention to certain articles in the tariff of Russia which practically seemed to discriminate in favor of the manufactures of contiguous states whose goods were exported to Russia by land as compared with those of other states, which, by reason of their geographical position, are obliged to export their goods to this country by sea. The United States of America belong to the latter category, and from their remoteness from Russia, and the necessity which they are under of using sea transportation as a means of commerce with Europe, they must feel the full hardship of the discrimination in the tariff of Russia to which I have referred.
I believe it to be the policy of the imperial government, by a judicious legislation and by every other means in its power, to foster the growing commercial relations between our two countries; a policy which has the hearty concurrence and active aid of the Government of the United States.
As early as the year 1832, under the influence of this friendly sentiment, in the treaty of commerce concluded between the two countries it was stipulated that “No higher or other duties shall be imposed on the importation into the United States of any article the produce or manufacture of Russia, and no higher or other duties shall be imposed on the importation into the Empire of Russia of any article the produce or manufacture of the United States, than are or shall be payable on the like article being the produce or manufacture of any other foreign country. Nor shall any prohibition be imposed on the importation or exportation of any article the produce or manufacture of the United States or of Russia to or from the ports of the United States, or to or from the ports of the Russian Empire, which shall not equally extend to all other nations.” (Article VI, Treaty of 1832.)
It seems to me to be self-evident that a tariff which discriminates in favor of dutiable goods imported by land equally discriminates against such goods imported by sea, and therefore withholds from the United States the benefit of the spirit of the article of the treaty of 1832 just quoted.
It does not obviate the disadvantageous position in which the United States is placed to say that the goods against which this discrimination is made may be unloaded at a foreign port and the nee imported into Russia by land. The increased expense of such a course is obvious, and it would probably be so great as to do away with the difference in the duty of thirty copecks which exists between the two different manners of importation. Besides, I take it for granted that, with the imperial government, as with the Government of the United States, there is a wish to encourage direct trade between the two countries; to have American goods enter Russian ports in American ships, and not to use a foreign port as an entrepôt for the commerce of Russia.
About the time the memorial regarding the Russian tariff was sent to me by the American merchants I had occasion to pay a visit to his excellency the imperial minister of finance. Unofficially I called his excellency’s attention to the discrimination existing in the tariff as to the two methods of importation, and I requested his excellency to famish me with any information or explanation as to the difference which he might be able to give, and also to inform me how this state of things could be reconciled in relation to the United States with the stipulations of Article VI of the treaty of 1832.[Page 753]
I herewith inclose yon a copy of a note which his excellency shortly after our interview addressed to me. This note probably contains the view which the imperial government may take of the question, but I believe that reflection will convince your excellency that it is a view that is hardly tenable in face of the treaty of 1832, and one in which it cannot be supposed that the Government of the United States of America can concur.
On submitting the memorial of the American merchants to my government, I find that its views are in accordance with those I have expressed above. I have accordingly been instructed to apprise the imperial government of the fact that, in the opinion of the Grovernment of the United States, the discriminating duties referred to are in contravention of the stipulations of Article VI of the treaty of 1832, since it seems clear that this stipulation was not meant to reserve to Russia the privilege of charging a less duty upon importations by land than upon those by sea. The smaller duty required by the tariff upon articles carried by land plainly has the effect of a bounty upon importations from countries conterminous with Russia.
I have also been instructed to say that the discrimination adverted to, whether it be of great or small present importance, involves a principle however, and a construction of the treaty upon which the interests of our commercial relations oblige us to insist. I accordingly beg to call your excellency’s attention to the subject in question, hoping that an examination of the matter will bring your excellency’s views into harmony with those expressed by the Government of the United States, and will lead to such action on the” part of the Imperial Government as will spedily remove a cause of dissatisfaction, the arrangement for which is based upon the stipulations of a treaty between the two countries.
I take, &c.,