File No. 657.119/221a

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

[Telegram]

6082. The following note has been delivered by the War Trade Board to Norwegian special mission to-day.1

The War Trade Board has given serious consideration to your note of December 72 containing the reply of the Norwegian Government to the proposals contained in our note to you of November 27.3

(1)
Fish and fish products. The board accepts the proposal of your Government in this respect and agrees to the exportation of 48,000 tons export weight of fish and fish products per annum to the Central powers. With respect to fish oil Norway is requesting considerable quantities of fats from the United States and its associates. While fish oil may not be an edible fat it is readily made edible and nutritious by admixture with certain other oils such as cotton-seed oil which Norway requests the United States and its associates to supply. Whatever oils Norway may export to the Central powers would be in diminution of Norway’s own supply of fats and our own exports of fats to Norway would to that extent be in substitution for fats exported to the Central powers. This board cannot consent to supply any commodities to Norway whether fats or other commodities which in effect will be substituted directly or indirectly for commodities exported to the Central powers. We assume that no fish or products of fish caught or in any way prepared with supplies imported from the United States or its associates are to be exported in any form to the Central powers and that the export of each class [Page 1088] of fish and fish products is to be made in the form in ordinary commercial use in the past.
(2)
Copper. The stipulations of this paragraph of your note do not seem to the board to be just. Your Government is asking for large quantities of copper from the United States and its associates. The exportable surplus of copper controlled by them is not sufficient to meet all demands. But so far as the war needs of the United States and its associates permit the board will assist in every way in supplying the copper needed by Norway. We agree to the export of copper to the Central powers in compensation for copper received from those powers in manufactured form plus 5 per cent to cover wastage. Your Government now claims the right to export compensation copper to the Central powers not in the form of crude or refined copper but in the form of the copper contents of ores which with exception of purple ore are lean in copper but rich in sulphur. The sulphur contents of these ores greatly exceed in value their copper contents. Sulphur is a commodity of prime importance in the manufacture of explosives and is of the greatest value as well to the United States and its associates as to the Central powers. The proposal of your Government would therefore result in granting to the Central powers under guise of compensation for copper a large amount of valuable war material which has nothing whatever to do with the principle of compensation. This board is unwilling to accept a proposal which has such results. No pyrites has in fact been exported by Norway to the Central powers for a considerable period of time. The compensation copper exported to the Central powers should be in the form of crude or refined copper as stipulated in our note to you of November 27.
(3) and (4)
Calcium carbide, calcium nitrate, ferro-silicon, and molybdenite. These two paragraphs of your note may well be treated as one. In them your Government reserves the right to export to the Central powers 15,000 tons of calcium carbide, 18,000 tons of calcium nitrate, 4,000 tons of ferro-silicon and 50 tons of molybdenite. The use of calcium carbide as an illuminant and of calcium nitrate as a fertilizer is more familiar to the public than the use of each of these commodities in the making of munitions. Each of the commodities covered by these two paragraphs is however not only usable but is largely used in the manufacture of munitions. Ferro-silicon and molybdenum are of course materials of the first importance in the manufacture of implements of war. In all of our communications with you in regard to Norway’s external trade we have sought only the free meeting of minds upon the question what would be fair concessions for the United States and her associates to expect from Norway in consideration of the large amount of commodities which Norway is asking from them. We cannot be wholly indifferent to the uses to which these commodities shall be applied. Your Government will not find it difficult to understand the grave reluctance of this board to the granting not only of large quantities of foodstuffs but of other commodities esssential to the maintenance of the industrial life of Norway in its full vigor only to see that vigor expended in the forging of weapons of warfare against ourselves and our associates and we feel confident that upon reconsideration your Government will appreciate [Page 1089] this reluctance and will agree with us that the United States and its associates will be fairly entitled to a prior option upon such commodities as are referred to in these paragraphs if they supply to Norway the commodities which she needs.
(5)
We note that you include among the products which are not to be exported to the Central powers antimony, bismuth, manganese, mica, nickel, tin, titanium and wolfram. You are aware from our repeated conversations that no satisfactory reason has been given to us why chrome is not included in this list. This board expects it to be included. We assume that this paragraph covers all ores and alloys of the commodities mentioned.
(6)
The stipulation of your Government not to export to the Central powers any foodstuffs of any kind except fish and fish products is accepted.
(7)
This paragraph presents some difficulties. Your Government reserves the right to export from Norway to the Central powers all other articles than those mentioned above without any limitation whatever as to kind or quantity. If we were to accept this paragraph as it stands we would be consenting to the export freely by your Government to the Central powers of many of the commodities which we are asked to furnish to Norway as well as all forms of nitrate of which Norway produces many besides calcium nitrate. Iron ore, iron, steel, zinc and aluminum would pass freely to the Central powers. This paragraph leaves the door wide open to unexpected developments which might easily cause deplorable misunderstandings and disagreements. The considerations stated above relating to the commodities described in paragraphs 4 and 3 of your note bear directly upon all commodities which are recognized as ingredients of munitions and supplies of war whether specifically mentioned by you or not and we submit to your Government that in consideration of the supplies to be furnished to Norway by the United States and its associates your Government should prevent the exportation of all commodities of that character to the Central powers. Your Government will of course agree that no commodity which the United States or its associates may furnish to Norway shall be exported to the Central powers or shall be used in the production of any other commodities which may be exported to the Central powers and that no commodity except fish and fish products upon which Norway has in the past placed restrictions of export by virtue of any agreement or understanding between herself and the British or French Governments before the entry of the United States into the war shall be exported to the Central powers. And in case Norway shall export to any neutral country contiguous to the Central powers, or either of them any commodity which Norway agrees not to export to the Central powers Norway will provide by agreement with the Government of such neutral country that no commodity so exported shall be re-exported directly or indirectly to the Central powers. This point was covered in your note of November 16.1
(8)
This board cannot absolutely guarantee to Norway a supply of foodstuffs which will be subject to the uncertainties of future harvests [Page 1090] or of other commodities the supply of which is necessarily dependent upon conditions of production which cannot be foreseen. Nor can the requirements of the United States and its associates in the war be in all respects definitely estimated in advance. Your Government is aware that as to foodstuffs there is at the present time sufficient for all reasonable needs and that the main difficulty in the light of Germany’s piratical submarine activities lies in bringing supplies to the countries where they are needed. The United States and its associates control the larger part of the available supplies of such commodities and any agreement which may be reached with Norway will be entered into only with the concurrence of the associated powers. The board of course assumes that the Norwegian Government will consult with the United States and its associates as to the sources from which Norway shall from time to time obtain her supplies and if this be done the board feels warranted in assuring your Government that in case an agreement shall be reached the reasonable requirements of Norway can and will be met and that the United States and its associates will use all their efforts to this end.
(9) and (10)
This board will in case an agreement shall be reached exercise all its power in granting not only export licenses for the commodities covered by such agreement but also for bunker coal and ship stores to facilitate the transportation to Norway of such commodities in such amounts as may be specified in the agreement and the board is assured by the Allied Governments with which it is acting in full accord in these matters that they will in every way facilitate the transportation to Norway of all commodities which shall be moving in full compliance with the terms of such agreement.
(11)
As to the duration of the agreement this board agrees that it shall be operative for the period of the war subject to termination by either party at the expiration of one year from the date of the agreement and at any time thereafter provided three months’ notice shall be given of such termination. In case an agreement shall be concluded later than December 24, 1917, this board will expect your Government to keep an account of the fish and fish products exported to the Central powers from that date and that the total exportation of fish and fish products to the Central powers shall be at a rate not in excess of 4,000 tons per month from that date until the expiration of the agreement. And this board will expect the Norwegian Government to take prompt and effective steps to provide adequate organization to ensure that the agreement shall be properly carried out in every respect and that no commodities imported by her from overseas shall pass directly or indirectly to the enemies of the United States and its associates. The Norwegian Government will doubtless be ready to outline such organization in the final agreement. Your Government will also be expected to supply full statistics of imports into and exports from Norway at the request of the United States and its associates at such periods as may be specified by them.

Repeat message in full to Christiania. In message to Christiania add the following:

You will communicate at once with your British, French and Italian colleagues and tell them that the above proposal has received the [Page 1091] approval here of the representatives of the British and French who joined in the negotiations. The Ministers of these countries will receive instructions from their Governments to state to the Norwegian Government that the offer is satisfactory to them and has their approval. After seeing your colleagues, present copy of the agreement at Foreign Office. Doctor Nansen will not cable copy but will advise Foreign Minister that you will hand copy to him. For your confidential information, as stated in cable November 27,1 these terms are in the main the best that can be secured by Norway and you should urge on that Government the advisability of accepting the same.

Lansing
  1. The note is dated Dec. 19.
  2. Ante, p. 1081.
  3. Ante, p. 1073.
  4. Ante, p. 1068.
  5. Ante, p. 1073.