File No. 600.119/42½

Report of April 9, 1917, of the War Trade Committee, on the Draft Bill Regarding Trade with the Enemy 2

The memorandum referred to the War Trade Committee included the question of the control of exports in time of war. The committee respectfully submits, therefore, a draft of a bill that is believed to cover this subject.3

The reasons for urging the control of exports during the period of the war may be grouped under two main heads: (1) by this means goods are prevented from reaching the enemy; (2) economic considerations make such action imperative. If we are to keep the Allies supplied with food and materials to the extent suggested by the President in his message to Congress, careful supervision will be necessary in order to curtail our exports of certain important materials to countries not actually employing them in the prosecution of the war. For example, there is at the present moment a serious shortage of tin plate. It occurs to the War Trade Committee that in order to insure the supply of tin plate necessary for food containers during the coming season, it may be desirable to prohibit the exportation of tin plate. No detailed argument is necessary to demonstrate the necessity of carefully supervising, and in all probability restricting, [Page 800] our exports of foodstuffs to other than Allied countries. Important metals such as lead, zinc, copper and important alloys such as ferrotungsten we cannot afford to export to countries other than those allied with the United States in the prosecution of the war.

It is respectfully submitted that the prompt enactment by Congress of legislation embodying the provisions of the bill hereto attached is a matter of urgent national importance.

To administer the export-prohibitions act, the War Trade Committee respectfully recommends that an auxiliary committee of this committee be created by Executive order, to be known as the Exports Control Committee. This committee, we believe, should consist of a representative from each of the following executive departments: War, Navy, State, Treasury, Commerce, Interior, and Agriculture. Some member of the War Trade Committee should be a member and act as a chairman of the Exports Control Committee.

It should be the duty of the Exports Control Committee to recommend to the President the prohibition of exportation of any articles, subject to export licenses granted. This committee should frame rules and regulations governing the issuance of such licenses.

The committee could receive valuable assistance from leading business men in the various industries that would be affected by the restriction of exports, and to this end it should appoint subcommittees to deal with various groups of articles, e. g., foodstuffs, coals, metals, ores and alloys, hides and leather, rubber, etc. A representative of the Government department most concerned should sit on each subcommittee.

We believe the actual issuance of licenses, as well as any other detail work in connection with keeping the records of the Exports Control Committee, could be performed most advantageously in the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce of the Department of Commerce, which has complete information regarding the country’s foreign trade and is in close touch with the productive industries of the country that are most interested in export trade.

To the Treasury Department would naturally fall the duty of seeing that no prohibited article was exported. In other words, the Customs Service in the various ports would require the production of a license before permitting the exportation of any article on the prohibited list.

It is respectfully suggested that the Exports Control Committee (in case the appointment of such a supervisory body meets with your approval) will have a vast amount of preliminary work to do in the way of conferring with representatives of our exporting industries in [Page 801] order to determine the policy to be pursued with respect to the restriction of exportation of various articles, and that authority should therefore be given to commence this preliminary work at the earliest possible date.

Respectfully submitted,

War Trade Committee
Charles Warren
Assistant Attorney General (Chairman)

L. H. Woolsey
Solicitor [Nominate], Department of State

E. E. Pratt
Chief, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Department of Commerce

  1. According to a letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, this committee was designated in the Cabinet meeting of Apr. 3, 1917, and was to be composed of the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Commerce. (File No. 763.72112/10418.)
  2. Not printed.