Mr. Reid to Mr. Blaine.

No. 225.]

Sir: Referring to my No. 209 of July 25, concerning an unanswered inquiry directed to the minister for foreign affairs as to the alleged proposition of the budget committee to change the tariff on petroleum so as to discriminate against the American and in favor of the Russian product, I have now to report receiving, on August 14, an answer from Mr. Ribot to my inquiry of July 9.

A copy and translation of this reply are herewith inclosed.

[Page 292]

Mr. Ribot states that only one bill to modify the existing duties on mineral oils has been lately presented, that of the budget committee, which proposes to raise the duty on crude oils from 18 francs to 21 francs and that on refined oils from 25 francs to 26 francs.

But under the treaty of 1881 with Belgium, which does not expire till January 1, 1892, these oils are admitted under a duty of 18 francs for the crude and 25 francs for the refined, and Russia, under the most-favored-nation clause in its treaty with France, is entitled to the same rates.

It follows, therefore, that under the new law proposed by the budget committee the United States would be subject to a discrimination of 3 francs on crude oils and 1 franc on refined oils until January 1, 1892, this discrimination existing not only in favor of Belgium and Russia, but also of any other nation having treaties with France containing the most-favored-nation clause.

Mr. Ribot states that France does not import crude oils from Russia, because they are not good for illuminating purposes, and thinks that the discrimination of 1 franc per 100 kilogrammes against the United States on the refined oils will not be sufficient to affect commerce.

In this, as in some other instances, the United States is subject to a peculiar disadvantage, because it does not have the most-favored-nation clause in its existing treaties with France.

I have, etc.,

Whitelaw Reid.
[Inclosure in No. 225—Translation.]

Mr. Ribot to Mr. Reid.

The minister for foreign affairs has the honor to acknowledge reception of the communication from the United States minister under date of the 9th ultimo. He hastens to advise him that, according to the information obtained from the minister of finances, only one bill tending to modify the conditions of importation in France of mineral oils has been introduced lately. It is the bill of the budget committee, which proposes to introduce in the law on finances for 1891 a provision raising from 18 francs to 21 francs the duty on crude petroleum and from 25 francs to 26 francs the duty on refined petroleum imported from abroad. The object of this proposition was not only to reduce to 5 francs per 100 kilogrammes the protection (bounty) given to French refiners, but also and particularly to check the fraud which consists in importing, under the name of “crude petroleum,” mineral oils almost completely refined, which need only a simple distillation to be used for lighting purposes.

It is true that the rates of 18 and of 25 francs having been fixed in the conventional tariff by the treaty of October 31, 1881, between France and Belgium, Russia, which is entitled to the treatment accorded the most favored nation, will continue to have the benefit of these rates until January 1, 1892, for the importation of her mineral oils. But it does not seem likely that this preference rule can injure American production. In fact, Russia does not import in France its crude petroleum, because it is not rich in illuminating qualities, while it is crude petroleum which is particularly required from America. As for refined oils, which would pay 25 francs, when the same articles brought from the United States would pay the new duty of 26 francs, the difference of 1 franc per 100 kilogrammes is not sufficient to influence in any appreciable manner the current of importation between the two countries.