The Russian Ambassador to the Secretary of State.

No. 103.]

Mr. Secretary of State: In compliance with the desire expressed by your excellency in your note No. 53 of October 31, 1907, relative to the extension of the customs facilities enjoyed by German merchandise [Page 349] to Russian imports into the United States, I make it my duty to transmit herewith an English translation, made at this embassy, of the articles of the Russian Commercial Code concerning Russian exchanges (articles 654–663 of the edition of 1903, corresponding to articles 589–598 of the edition of 1893), together with that of the articles 42–82 of the by-laws of the St. Petersburg Exchange relative to the powers and duties of the St. Petersburg exchange committee.

The following explanations I have just received from the imperial ministry of foreign affairs will complete the information contained in the above-mentioned texts.

The existing law of Russia recognizes the exchanges as “commercial institutions” (articles 654–655 of the Commercial Code) and expressly ranks them among the institutions to which the consuls and agents of the ministry of finance abroad belong. They are in operation in the leading industrial or commercial centers and are governed by the above-mentioned articles (654–663) of the commercial code as well as by the by-laws of the several exchanges. At the head of each is placed an “exchange committee” whose complex status may be epitomized as follows:

These committees are, in a manner, the representative organs of the industrial and commercial classes of some one locality, and as such, in the intendment of the law, it is made their duty to watch over the common interests and needs of the manufacturers and merchants; and to that end, first, to supply the Government with information bearing on local commerce and industry and offer advice in such matters. In their capacity as representative organs of commerce and industry the exchange committees are requested to be represented by one member or more in various Government advisory committees as members of such committees. Thus the law requires that they be represented in the council of the ministry of commerce and industry on ocean navigation affairs; in the committee, established in the same ministry, on forts and harbors; in the principal committee on mines and manufactures; in the committee on industrial taxation, attached to the ministry of finance; in the committees on the regulation of railway transportation, attached to the several railroad administrations; in the general sessions of the chambers of finance relative to industrial taxation, etc.
The exchanges headed by “committees” perform essentially commercial duties, viz, the regulation and organization of commerce within their district. To that end the exchange committees are vested by the existing law and by-laws with extensive powers in the following matters: Rules to be observed by merchants within the exchange, compilation of commercial usages, issue of exchange bulletins regarding the price of merchandise, arbitration of commercial differences, delivery to applicants on request of various kinds of certificates concerning commercial matters (including certificates as to the quality and value of merchandise), the supervision of the sorting of goods intended for export, the sanction of the rules governing exchange commissioners, the creation of administrations in commercial affairs, etc.

The law of January 17, 1905, further conferred upon exchange committees, with the consent of the minister of commerce and industry, the right to supervise the export of wheat to foreign countries and to issue certificates as to the quantity and quality of the wheat exported.

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The exchanges are under the jurisdiction of the minister of commerce and industry, to which all complaints against them must be addressed, and the exchange “committees” annually report the manner in which the exchanges have operated and the local conditions of trade and industry.

It appears from the foregoing that the exchange committees being, on the one hand, the representative organs of industry and commerce (akin to the chambers of commerce of other European countries as to the main object for which they are established), and being, on the other hand, institutions for the regulation of the local trade, vested on that account with considerable administrative and social powers by law, it is impossible not to admit that they are at least quite as competent as the German chambers of commerce in issuing certificates to attest the value of Russian merchandise imported into the United States.

I deem it my duty to append hereto a complete list of the exchange committees existing in Russia. Their by-laws are published in the bulletins of the laws of the Empire and, if required, could be furnished by the imperial ministry of foreign affairs. It may be observed, however, that these by-laws are in their essential parts, reproductions of the by-laws of the St. Petersburg Exchange, articles 42–82 of which are inclosed herewith in English, as stated in the beginning of this note.

In conclusion, I deem it my duty to say that the English translation of the text of the Russian law conveys as accurately as possible the meaning of the said texts. If the English terminology therein used is found to be defective or insufficiently clear, your excellency will kindly consider that the imperial embassy was not in position to engage for this work an expert lawyer equally familiar with the Russian and American laws.

Be pleased to accept, etc.,