Memorandum from the French Embassy.


In connection with the propositions formulated by the Department of State on June 19 last in respect to the tariff governing the imports of both countries, the minister of finance of the Republic instituted an examination of that commerce in all its parts and of the manner in which the system now in force burdens French imports into the United States and American imports into France. While the pourparlers relative to the action that should be taken on the above-mentioned propositions are in progress, it may not be amiss to call attention to the facts brought to light by the said examination.

As for the importations into France from the United States, the following remarks are based upon the returns for the year 1906 according to French statistics, and, respecting the exportations from France to the United States, upon the figures of the fiscal year ended June 30, 1906, as given in the American statements.

The importation from the Union into France amounted in 1906 to 588,000,000 francs, upon which the customs levied 51,427,000 francs—that is to say, a percentage of 8.75 per cent. Deducting the amount of merchandise entitled to free entry under the regulations (raw hides, whalebone, pearls, oil seeds, leaf tobacco, rubber, cotton, oil cakes, phosphates, block copper, etc.), aggregating 394,000,000 francs, there remains for dutiable merchandise a sum of 194,000,000, on which the percentage of duties amounts to 26 per cent.

It is proper, however, to observe that several of these duties are for revenue only and truly amount to excise dues; it is so in the case of coffee, cocoa, and mineral oils. If these articles, representing a value of 46,000,000 francs and duties to the amount of 32,000,000 francs (70 per cent of the value), be deducted, there remains for the other dutiable goods an amount of 148,000,000 francs in value and 19,000,000 in duties—that is to say, a percentage of 13 per cent, in round numbers.

American imports into France averaged 509,000,000 francs during the last five years.

As to French imports into the United States, the average amounted to 469,000,000 francs. The figures for 1906 rose to 562,000,000 francs, but during the four preceding years they were only 429,000,000 francs, 466,000,000 francs, 422,000,000 francs, and 466,000,000 francs, respectively.

In 1906 the respective proportion of dutiable and free articles was 461,000,000 to 101,000,000 francs—that is to say, 18 per cent—while in the case of American goods imported into France it was 194,000,000 to 394,000,000 francs, or 67 per cent.

As regards the amount of duty levied on our shipments, we note the following results: Our products paid to the American customs in 1906 the sum of 202,000,000 francs. As compared to our aggregate imports, the percentage amounts to 28 per cent. If dutiable merchandise only is taken into consideration, it reaches 43 per cent.

Most of the American duties, as is well known, are strongly protective and reach very high rates. Thus, on automobiles the duty is 45 per cent of the value; on brushes and buttons, 40 and 50 per cent; [Page 316] on watches and clocks, 40 per cent; on cotton clothing and knit goods, 55 and 60 per cent; on fans 60 per cent; on porcelain, 55 and 60 per cent; on linen goods, 45 per cent; on almonds, 42 per cent; on bottles and plate glass, 55 per cent; on jewelry, 60 per cent; on gloves, 52 per cent; on musical instruments, 45 per cent; on perfumery, 59 per cent; on woolen clothing and manufactures, 96 and 103 per cent; on silk goods, from 45 to 60 per cent.

These few indications furnish an easy answer to the objections of the American Government touching the treatment we accord to its products. It is true that owing to the refusal to ratify the convention of 1899 American imports (except the articles contained in the arrangement of 1898 and also petroleum) are subject to the rates of our general tariff. But French products are subject in the United States to the terms of a tariff that is much higher than our general tariff.

Considered from the standpoint of the customs treatment applied, the imports (principal staples) from the United States into France may be divided as follows:

Description. Value. Percentage of total American imports.
Francs. Per cent.
Merchandise entitled to free entry 394,378,700 67.08
Merchandise subject to the general tariff:
Listed in general tariff only 29,346,100 4.99
On which duty is same in both the general and minimum tariff 25,003,300 4.26
All other 62.889.700 10.70
Merchant admitted under the minimum tariff 75,132,200 12.78

So that 67.08 per cent of the aggregate American imports enjoys full exemption from duty, 12.78 per cent the minimum tariff, and 20 per cent only is subject to the general tariff. But it is proper to observe, as regards this last class of products, that 4.99 per cent is listed in the general tariff only, and that the duty on 4.26 per cent is the same in both the minimum and the general tariff. There remains, therefore, but 11 per cent of the imports that is, properly speaking, excluded from our minimum tariff.

Our imports into the United States are far from receiving the same favorable treatment.

The portion enjoying free entry only amounts to 101,348,000 francs, or 18.05 per cent.

That enjoying conventional rates (section 3 of the Dingley tariff) comes to 26,200,000 francs, or 5.7 per cent.

The remainder, viz, 76 per cent, is, in fact, subjected to the terms of the general tariff without any rebating or tempering.

On the other hand, it is proper to add, on the particular subject of petroleum and the benefit of the minimum tariff enjoyed by it under the decree of the French Government dated July 17, 1893, the following remarks to the facts already presented to the Department of State in a letter of the 12th instant.

The grounds upon which the reduction was decided upon were the prospect of obtaining certain advantages in return, a hope which had been realized by Congress passing the tariff act known as the Wilson [Page 317] tariff, in 1894. A large number of French articles, such as woolens, silk goods, gloves, wines and liquors, jewelry, porcelain, furniture, works of art, preserved food products, cotton and linen goods, and many others had in that tariff been made the subject of favorable rates of duty. When the Dingley tariff was promulgated in 1897 the decree would have been repealed but for the French Government deciding to defer such action upon taking into consideration section 4 of the act and the conciliatory dispositions evinced by the Federal Administration. Since ratification of the convention of 1899, which was based on the said section 4, was refused, the concession has, in fact, been made without an equivalent, though the French Government has not at any time surrendered its freedom of action on this point.

It is not out of place to add that it would be an error to believe that France maintained this reduction for her own benefit only, and that she could not find elsewhere the stock of petroleum she needs. Apart from Russia, which in 1904 supplied us with an amount almost equal to that shipped by America (134,000 tons of crude oil as against 166,000 tons from the United States, and 28,000 tons of refined oil and gasoline as against 35,000 tons), and the imports of which have fallen off temporarily only during 1905 and 1906 by reason of the disturbances in the Caucasus, we can not lose sight of the fact that shipments from Roumania to France are growing larger and larger (39,500 tons of crude oil and 49,000 tons of refined oil and gasoline in 1906), and that imports from Galicia are also showing a marked tendency to increase. Furthermore, it would depend on France alone to secure a market almost as important as the American market by conceding the benefit of her minimum tariff to the crude and refined oils and gasoline of the Dutch Indies, the output of which in 1904 was already more than 500,000 tons.

The United States can not ignore the fact that the notable increase of its exports to France in 1906 and the advantage derived from the temporary decrease of Russian shipments were due to its enjoying the benefit of our minimum tariff while petroleum from the Dutch Indies came under the general tariff. This fact alone shows the very great value that attaches to the concession of the minimum tariff.