File No. 5727/152–155.

The Swiss Minister to the Secretary of State.


Mr. Secretary of State: By your note of the 27th of September lasta your excellency was good enough to inform the legation that, before reaching a decision in regard to the requests of the Federal Council set forth in Mr. de Pury’s note of the 3d of the same month, the Secretary of the Treasury had expressed a desire to receive additional information concerning the organization of the five chambers of commerce of La Chaux de Fonds, Basle, Geneva, Zurich, and St. Gall, and their relations with the Government.

The legation lost no time in transmitting that wish to my Government which has just communicated to me the explanations I have the honor to submit herein to your excellency.

In compliance with new instructions from the Federal Council, I first have the honor to remark that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Berne should be added to the above-named chambers of commerce.

As regards the organization and agency of those chambers, I have the honor to submit to your excellency the following statement:

1. Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Berne.—As your excellency will kindly see from the by-laws hereto annexed, that chamber is an official organ of the State, created by a decree of the grand council of the Canton of Berne, under date of November 19, 1897; it is organized, supervised, and officially inspected by the department of the interior and holds, in respect of its character and programme, an absolutely official position.

2. The Swiss Chamber of Watch-making Industry of La Chaux de Fonds is also an official organ; its official creation and functions plainly appear from the annexed by-laws which were adopted by the delegated councilors of state, members of the canton governments of Berne, Neuchatel, Vaud, Geneva, and Solothurn. That chamber, the expenses of which are borne by the above-named governments as well as by a subsidy from the Confederation, constitutes an association of all the chambers of commerce, official or acting as such, and of the departments of state of the cantons in which the watch-making industry exists; the five governments just above mentioned, the federal department of commerce, the federal bureau of gold and silver articles, and the members of parliament who belong to the watch-making industry all take an official part in the meetings.

The Swiss Chamber of Watch-making Industries deals with all questions relative to the manufacture and commerce of watches; it would be the competent organ to establish export prices and furnish explanations to the consuls and special agents of the United States.

3. The Chamber of Commerce of Basle is the permanent bureau of the commercial and industrial association of Basle; it is subsidized by the Government with which it maintains constant relations. It is [Page 505] consulted in every question, connected with the commerce and industry of Basle, by the federal, cantonal, and municipal authorities, and no question is dealt with, in that domain, without its being called upon by the Government for its opinion; it is charged with the supervision of the Stock and Produce Exchange (Warren-und-Effekten-boerse). In 1906 it had to render, in addition to other opinions concerning customs claims, the creation of consulates, the federal law relative to food products regulations, and the protection of patents on chemical inventions; the law relative to the practice of law at Basle, the law relative to the keeping of Sunday rest in the Canton of Basle, various improvements in traffic, the time schedules of railways, the navigation of the River Rhine, changes in the organization of the postal and telephone services, etc. It organizes conferences on behalf of the Government and the cantonal commission on commerce and industry always asks a delegation of the chamber of commerce to attend its deliberations; its certificates of origin and authentications are everywhere recognized as are those of the official chambers of other countries.

As stated in the annual report of that chamber of commerce for the year 1906, the consul of the United States, Mr. Gifford, was instructed by his Government to enter into relations with the chamber with a view to determining the normal export prices of Basle products shipped to the United States; on April 4 the consul and the president of the chamber of Basle agreed upon a “form acceptable to all parties” in regard to the part taken by the chamber in determining the said prices.

So that the Federal Government has the honor to ask the Government of the United States to do something which is already in full existence, and it is only a question of obtaining a confirmation by which the assimilation of the Basle Chamber of Commerce to a German chamber shall be sanctioned.

4. The Chamber of Commerce of Geneva holds exactly the same situation as that above considered and constitutes the bureau of the commercial and industrial association of Geneva; it is the advisory organ of the administrative council of the city of Geneva and of the Government which communicates regularly with it and allows it a large annual subsidy. In the matter of attestations and certificates delivered by it, that chamber is in every way reliable and all the other foreign customs (French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, South American, and others) accept its certificates of origin; the federal (Swiss) customs administration recognizes its declarations and treats them as those emanating from the administrative authorities of Switzerland.

There is found in the report of the government of Geneva for the year 1905 respecting its relations with the chamber of commerce the following passage:

The department of commerce and industry has maintained constant relations with the chamber of commerce regarding several questions of interest to commerce and industry, railway time schedules, the exposition of Milan, the hallmarks of gold and silver articles, etc. The department is often glad that it can apply to the chamber for information its administration requires. The annual report of the chamber gives an account of the business attended to by its bureau and bears witness to the pains taken by the latter in the defense of the commercial interests of our market.

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5. The Chamber of Commerce of Zurich, which is the permanent bureau of the Zurich commercial community, holds a situation similar to that of the two institutions above mentioned. All matters attended to by a German chamber of commerce come within its province, and even more, since it has the supervision of the stock and produce exchange, whose building was erected and is owned by it. It is a historical institution of the canton of Zurich, and for centuries has taken a considerable part in the development of the country.

The annual report of the government of Zurich to the legislature of the Canton (Zurcher Kantonsrats) contains year after year the following passage:

As regards the commerce and industry of the Canton the technical information is given in the report published by the Zurich Chamber of Commerce.

The report of the chamber of commerce is expressly considered by the government of Zurich as an appendix to the report of its bureau of political economy (Volkswirthschafts-Direktion).

The government of Zurich recognizes the chamber as its competent official organ for information on all questions of commercial or industrial interest; for instance, it consults the chamber as to the selection of candidates for membership in the government commercial commission, the election of judges of the tribunal of commerce, bills relating to commerce and industry. Like the German chambers of commerce, the Zurich chamber attends to opinions and petitions relative to the industrial and commercial development of the Canton; it publishes its views on questions of political economy affecting the country; it published in October last an opinion on the revision of the federal postal law, and on this point proposes amendments to the draft of the Federal Council.

The Zurich Chamber of Commerce holds the formal authorization of the federal customs administration to issue attestations for the Swiss customs traffic; its certificates of origin are unanimously accepted and recognized in all countries, viz: France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Russia, Servia, Turkey, Japan, etc., which look on them as official certificates.

6. The Commercial Directory of St. Gall (Kaufmaennisches Direcktorium) constitutes the permanent bureau of the Merchants’ Corporation to which the leading merchants of St. Gall belong; it exercises, absolutely and in every way all the functions of an official chamber of commerce. Under it, among others, come the industrial museum of trades and manufacturers which it founded, and the industrial school; it holds the foremost place in the council of the academy of commerce; its action is supported by a large capital fund which comes from its formerly being in charge of the postal and savings banks service. The Commercial Directory has been in existence about four centuries, and as early as the seventeenth century played a prominent part in the history and the economical and even the political development of the Canton of St. Gall; it is vested with a wide authority sanctioned by the executive powers.

The history of the Commercial Directory and of its great activity in every branch concerning the economical life of the country is set [Page 507] forth in a pamphlet hereto annexed, and has been published in the Swiss Dictionary of Political Economy. The work accomplished by the directory can be traced at every step in the industrial and commercial development of eastern Switzerland and there is no foundation, institution, or association for industrial, commercial or public good purposes to which it has not brought active cooperation or financial aid. The deep roots it has thrown into the historic past of the Canton, the traditions of honor that have always underlain its management, its unquestionable qualifications from a commercial and industrial standpoint, the preponderating part it has ever been called upon to take in the affairs of the country jointly with the authorities, its collaboration with the federal and cantonal government organs in all questions affecting economical conditions in Switzerland, permit of the directory being considered as an official, if not semiofficial, organ.

The directory is at present the advisory organ of the federal, cantonal, and municipal authorities in all questions concerning industry and commerce, and it publishes annual reports on the subject. It has frequently entered into relations with the consuls of the United States to assist in determining the declared values of embroideries and in the computation of lace points upon which the declarations are based; it is therefore well known as being the institution that performs on all questions at St. Gall the part of an official, commercial, and industrial chamber.

As already stated, all the above-mentioned organs publish yearly extensive reports on the condition and progress of the commerce and industry of their respective cantons. Although not all of them were created by the State, they nevertheless bear a general official character recognized by the Governments; they are vested with the needful authority and render to the public weal the same services as the German official chambers.

I venture to add that the representatives of the Government of the United States in Switzerland have surely had opportunities to satisfy themselves as to the semiofficial character of the chambers of Basle, Geneva, Zurich, and St. Gall, whose certificates of origin are accepted and recognized by all the nations that require declarations of that character, and as to the unquestioned authority with which those institutions are vested.

I therefore entertain the hope that the Government of the United States will agree to putting the six chambers of commerce hereinabove considered on the same footing as the German chambers of commerce or those of several other countries in which those institutions appear also to have originally emanated from the merchants’ private initiative.

I should be very thankful to your excellency if you would kindly take into favorable consideration the requests of the Federal Council set forth in the note of September 3 and the present one, and commend their object to the Treasury Department.

With the anticipated expression of my warm gratitude, be pleased, etc.,

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