Mr. Reid to Mr. Blaine.
Paris, August 5, 1890. (Received August 19.)
Sir: On Friday evening last I received a friendly note from the minister of foreign affairs saying that if I were free from other engagements about 4 or 5 o’clock on Saturday afternoon he would like to chat with me a little on the subject of my letter of July 28. Accordingly, I called at the time named.
After a cordial reception the minister soon introduced the subject of what he called my “full and argumentative letter.” He said that, in spite of all I had urged against any necessary or just connection between their repealing their prohibitory duty on pork and the actual and prospective action of the United States on the two McKinley bills, the latter did have a very important bearing on the former in the minds of the Deputies, to whose feelings they were compelled to defer.
He then said that in his consultations with his colleagues on this subject, the minister of agriculture had dwelt upon the fact that France did not stand alone in this prohibition and had not been the first to enforce it. I pointed out here that, according to my recollection, with the exception of Italy, France had been the first, as it was certainly the most important, of the powers prohibiting American pork. Waiving this point, he went on to say that if the decree were repealed we could not object to their imposing a much heavier duty. To this I replied, renewing a suggestion heretofore presented to him in writing, to the effect that under the circumstances it would be to the common interests of both not to make the duty high enough to prevent or even to check importations; and that, since the importations obviously did not interfere with any of their industries, it would be desirable to fix the duty at a point which the experience of dealers showed that the trade could well bear, so as to give the French Government the largest possible revenue.
Mr. Ribot proceeded to speak of the very high duties imposed by other countries. The duty in Germany he thought to be 25 francs per 100 kilogrammes, and in one or two other countries nearly as high, while in France, including everything, it was only about 8 francs the 100 kilogrammes. He then referred to the proposed duty on imported pork in the United States as being far higher than that even of Germany. In reply, I stated that, according to the best information I could get, both from French and American importers, a duty in France of 25 francs the 100 kilogrammes, being more than three times the present duty, would at present be prohibitory, and that, in their belief, an advance of 50 per cent, on the present duty, say 12 francs per 100 kilogrammes, was the extreme limit which the trade would bear.
The minister said that the Government was investigating the whole subject carefully in the hope of finding a way to take some step in the direction we desired.
I have, etc.,