The Acting Secretary of State to Ambassador Meyer.
Washington, March 31, 1905.
Sir: The Department invites your attention to the official correspondence of record in your embassy in relation to the discriminatory customs duties imposed since the year 1901 upon certain American products, especially machinery, tools, and manufactures of iron or steel, on their importation into Russia. As will appear by reference thereto, the Russian minister of finance, in an order published February 15, 1901, to take effect March 22, 1901, withdrew the benefits of the Russian conventional or minimum tariff for European commerce from the products of American manufacture enumerated in tariff articles 150, 151, 152, 153, 161, and section 2 of article 167, and applied thereto the higher rates prescribed in the general tariff, involving increases of duty of 20 and 30 per cent. It was frankly acknowledged at the time by the minister of finance that this withdrawal of most-favored-nation tariff treatment, which had previously been accorded by Russia uniformly and without qualification to American commerce, was an act of retaliation against the United States because of the action of the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States in relation to the assessment of countervailing duties on imports of Russian beet sugar in pursuance of the mandatory provisions of section 5 of the United States tariff act approved July 24, 1897. Furthermore, because of the action of the Treasury Department in levying a duty upon imports of Russian petroleum in accordance with the equally mandatory provisions of paragraph 626 of the said tariff act, the minister of finance, in June, 1901, took further discriminatory action against American trade by applying the advanced tariff rates upon imports from the United States mentioned in article 82 and paragraph 3 of article 173, the latter affecting bicycles.
While the action of the Government of the United States in both the instances above mentioned was not actuated by any thought of retaliation nor attended by any element of discrimination against Russian commercial interests, it is a regrettable fact that the tariff measures adopted by the Russian Government in relation to American commerce have been avowedly retaliatory and discriminatory. This government made prompt representations to the Imperial Government on the subject of the injustice of those measures, pointing out the injurious effect which they would have upon American export interests. No relief, however, has been given by the Imperial Government, and the discriminations have now continued for four years, during which period the trade relations between the two countries have been seriously hampered. This matter has been the subject of numerous complaints by American exporters.
The attention of this Department has just been called to certain statements in relation to this question of commercial difference made by Privy Councilor Timiryazeff, of the Russian ministry of finance, in the course of a recent conversation with an American citizen traveling in Russia. The official named is reported as saying that for his part he would be glad to cooperate with the American Government and to help to stimulate mutual commercial intercourse by removing the [Page 802]extra duty on American products, and that he believed that this could be done without asking the United States to remove duties, but that his government had not recently been approached by the United States regarding any rearrangement of trade conditions.
Assuming that Mr. Timiryazeff—who, it is understood, is at the head of the division of commerce and industry in the ministry of finance—has been correctly reported, it would seem that the present is an opportune time for the renewal of judicious representations on the part of your embassy looking to the discontinuance by Russia of the existing discriminatory duties on important American articles of export. It is hoped by the Department that the Russian Government, while readjusting its conventional tariff relations with neighboring countries, will be found to be favorably disposed toward the amelioration of the present unsatisfactory conditions in respect to American commerce.
You are accordingly instructed to bring this matter to the attention of the Imperial Government at the earliest suitable opportunity and to urge upon the minister of foreign affairs the importance of restoring the full benefits of most-favored-nation tariff treatment to all imports from the United States in the interest of the greatest possible development of the commercial relations between the two countries.
I am, etc.,