Mr. Uhl to Mr. Muruaga.

Sir: Your note of the 14th ultimo, in contemplation of the contingency, as therein stated by you, that “His Majesty’s Government will probably soon be under the necessity of imposing customs duties upon articles of Spanish production in general, which are now free, and of increasing those already established on foreign goods,” propounded, for an expression of the views of this Government hereon, the two following inquiries:

  • “1. Whether, if the Spanish Government shall levy import duties in Cuba and Puerto Rico, on articles of Spanish production carried to those islands from Spain, the United States will impose a similar duty on those same articles, on importation into the United States, under the stipulation of the existing reciprocity arrangement which permits the Cortes or Congress to modify or repeal said arrangement whenever they may think proper,” and
  • “2. Whether, in case of an increase on all items of the tariff now in force, the same increase will (may?) be made in the case of articles which, under the aforesaid tariffs, pay a reduced duty.”

These questions are understood to call for information as to whether, and to what extent, the freedom now enjoyed by importers into the United States of certain products of Spain and her colonies, from the imposition of duties under the power conferred upon the President by section 3 of the act of October 1, 1890, would be affected by the proposed changes in the Spanish tariff.

The matter having been submitted to the consideration of the Secretary of the Treasury, as you were informed in this Department’s note of May 19, I have the honor to acquaint you with the purport of his [Page 623] reply just received. In the opinion of that official the imposition by the Spanish Government of duties on articles produced in Spain and brought from that country to Cuba and Puerto Rico would in no way affect the freedom enjoyed in consequence of the reciprocity arrangement referred to, but any unfavorable modification of the terms on which the products or manufactures of the United States, specified in the schedules cited in the President’s proclamation of July 31, 1891, are now admitted to entry in Cuba and Puerto Rico would necessarily raise the question whether the measure of reciprocity remaining after such modification would be sufficient to justify further nonexercise of the power conferred on the President by said section 3 of the act of October 1, 1890.

This opinion is expressed in view of the existing legislation upon the subject; but, of course, if the present law of the United States should be repealed or modified, the power now vested in the President would be affected accordingly.

Accept, etc.,

Edwin F. Uhl,
Acting Secretary.