File No. 763.72112/1991

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Page)


2599. Confidentially informed by Minister in China that British trading regulations as in force in China require submission by neutral firms to British consular officers of all documents including detailed information about transaction covering cargo offered for shipment. American merchants thereby obliged to disclose to British authorities information which could be used to detriment of American trade. American concerns obliged to discharge German employees before British vessels or banks will be permitted to extend facilities for China-American trade. British consular officers have required shipments of antimony and dyes by neutral firms to be consigned British Consul General, New York, before allowing space on British vessels. Consular officers maintain white and black lists. American merchants under suspicion of direct or indirect dealings with enemy concerns in China or in United States for import or export trade are blacklisted and these companies, using British bank or shipping facilities, are subjected to exasperating and humiliating treatment by consular authorities before permission is granted. British authorities consider British vessels operating in China as common carriers for British subjects only. Since withdrawal of American steamers, British authorities have been more exacting in their requirements. Action of British authorities apt to create a monopoly for British firms in China-American trade. Some American merchants who have endeavored to comply with British regulations but not admitted to white list have appealed to Legation for assistance. British Consul General in one instance in blunt terms refused to give any information as to his instructions to British ships not to accept cargo. It is reported British authorities are causing Japanese vessels to refuse American cargoes. American merchants are forced to stand aside and see their business taken over by other nationalities. Many are intimidated, through fear of trade losses, to even protest. Continuation of this treatment would seem to [Page 642] this Department to be tending towards unfriendliness. It is suggested by our Minister in China that British consuls be instructed to allow acceptance and delivery of bona-fide American cargoes, irrespective of prior ownership, upon affidavits of ownership sworn to before American consuls, and that certificates of American character of firms should be accepted. Take matter up with Foreign Office and press for immediate relief.