Tobacco: proposal to alter tariff rates1

1. As many of the dispatches from the legation concerning tobacco refer also to the reciprocity treaty and to sugar, their insertion here would repeat much irrelevant matter and they are accordingly referred to in footnotes.

On January 6, 1911, in his dispatch No. 550, the American minister at Habana transmitted to the Secretary of State a note2 from Señor Sanguily, the Cuban secretary of state, dated January 2, 1911, wherein the Government of the United States is requested to express its opinion as to whether, if Cuba were to reduce the tariff on crude and refined sugars sufficiently to enable that Government to adhere to the Brussels Sugar Convention, such act would violate the reciprocity treaty between Cuba and the United States.

This request was repeated on February 14 and reported in dispatch No. 626,1 which also reported that there was before the Cuban Congress a bill which, among other things, had to do with this question; and on February 17, in his dispatch No. 637,3 the minister set forth the provisions of the bill, showing that it contemplated:

(1)
Requesting of the United States an amplification of the reciprocity treaty in order to obtain for tobacco greater advantages in return for concessions in regard to other American merchandise;
(2)
A treaty protecting trade-marks and patents;
(3)
A surcharge of 50 per cent of existing tariff rates on products or merchandise of any nation with which Cuba shall not have concluded a reciprocity treaty, or which shall not within six months make tariff concessions to Cuban manufactured tobacco;
(4)
Provision for the protection of seals by which the identity of Cuban tobacco could be clearly proved.

No response being received from Washington, the Cuban Congress on February 22 enacted a bill reducing the tariff on sugar, as reported in dispatch No. 646.

On March 21 the Secretary of State replied to the request of the Cuban secretary of state, of January 2, and also to those set forth in the above-mentioned bill in dispatch 637. This response is contained in dispatch 270,3 where the Secretary said in answer to (1) that “whether it would be possible to concede greater advantages for Cuban tobacco can not be indicated in advance, nor, in fact, can it be assumed that this Government will find it expedient to recommend modifications of the treaty.”

To the second item no objection was made.

To the third the Secretary replied as follows:

The proposition to apply a surcharge on the products of merchandise of any nation which has not already concluded a reciprocity treaty with Cuba, or which does not, within six months after the promulgation of this law, make tariff concessions to Cuban manufacturers of tobacco, is one that should receive the most careful consideration on the part of the Cuban Government. The complications which would result from Cuba’s entering into a reciprocity treaty with other countries in view of the existing treaty with the United States, and the extreme difficulty of adjusting the Cuban tariff with those of other countries so as not to interfere with the preferences given the United States, have been fully explained-in previous instructions.

“The Department,” he continued, in a telegram of April 8,2 “has no power to waive the American tariff preference on sugar or any other article included in the treaty with Cuba, since such waiver [Page 109]would be a partial abrogation of that treaty, which would require the concurrence of the legislative branch of the Government”; and on the 12th he instructed the minister that there was no objection to the reduction in Cuban duties on sugar, provided proportional preferential reduction was maintained in favor of the United States.1

On April 14 the minister reported in his dispatch 7482 the reintroduction of the bill regarding amplification of the reciprocity treaty in order to favor Cuban manufactured tobacco. The correspondence then continues as follows:


[107] The Secretary of State to the American Minister.

File No. 611.3731/28.


[108] The American Minister to the Secretary of State.

File No. 611.3731/35.


[109] The American Minister to the Secretary of State.

File No. 611.3731/36.

  1. See article on “Sugar,” pp. 101, 102, 105.
  2. As many of the dispatches from the legation concerning tobacco refer also to the reciprocity treaty and to sugar, their insertion here would repeat much irrelevant matter and they are accordingly referred to in footnotes.
  3. See article on “Reciprocity treaty,” p. 94.
  4. See article on “Reciprocity treaty,” p. 94.
  5. See article on “Sugar,” pp. 101, 102, 105.
  6. See article on “Sugar.”
  7. See article on “Reciprocity treaty,” p. 94.