Mr. Hay to Mr. Conger.
Washington, February 27, 1902.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith for your information copy of a dispatch from Mr. John Fowler, consul of the United States at Chefoo, with regard to the question of the establishment of our own post-offices in the foreign treaty ports in China, as it is understood [Page 223] by the Department is the practice with the British, German, Japanese, French, and Russian Governments.
While this is a matter which concerns the Postmaster-General, the Department of State would not make any recommendation to the Postmaster-General in this particular without a full report from you, setting forth the importance of the step.
The second question treated in Mr. Fowler’s dispatch is the right of the Chinese Government to collect a 5 per cent duty on purchases made in China of foreign origin which have paid duty on entry into China, and, incidentally, or, rather, more particularly, the right to collect a duty on shipments of a private character destined for consular officers in China.
The Department is of the opinion that objects of foreign origin bought in China and shipped to another point in China should be free of duty. The final protocol (Article VI, paragraph e) provides for a “5 percent effective on maritime imports;” that is, original imports—imports from a foreign country—and any other interpretation of it so as to make it include coastwise duties, or any other description of import tax, is believed to be without justification.
As to original imports into China through the mails, the Department sees no reason why we should ask for the privilege of having them exempted from import duty, even though it may be that such imports through the other foreign post-offices established in China escape the payment of this duty. It would seem but equitable that so long as the Chinese Government does not insist that foreign imports through foreign mails shall pay the regular customs duties that it should not collect such customs duties on imports from the United States or any other country which has not its own postal service in China. This concession might be asked of the Chinese Government, but not as a matter of right.
As to the right of a consular officer to import free of duty goods for his own personal use and consumption, he is not entitled to any such privilege. Even the importation of official consular supplies free of duty is not granted in all countries. In the United States we only grant it to the consular officers of such countries as give us similar privileges. In case of goods destined for a diplomatic representative, this is another matter entirely.
You will use your good offices with regard to the correction of apparent abuse of the collection of the 5 per cent duty on purchases made in China of goods of foreign origin which have paid a duty on entry into China; but in the matter of the exemption from import duty of original imports into China through the mails, the Department does not deem it advisable that any action be taken until it has received a report from you as to the advisability of the establishment of our own post-offices in the foreign treaty ports of China.
I am, etc.,
- Inclosures to this dispatch not printed.↩