File No. 800.88/180
The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 8, 12.14 p.m.]
1710. Ship Mission for Lansing, Hurley, Hoover, Baruch, and McCormick [from Stevens and Rublee]:
No. 514. A meeting of Allied Maritime Transport Council was held in London on the 29th and 30th of August. We attended as representatives of the United States.
The Council unanimously arrived at the following decisions subject to the assent of the respective Governments.
1. Food Programme for Cereal Year 1918–1919
The Food Council presented a programme calling for importations aggregating 27,000,000 tons for the three European Allies; this was an increase of 4,500,000 tons over the actual importations for the last cereal year, including an increase in the requirements for military [Page 526] oats from 2,250,000 to 3,500,000 tons. It appeared that the cereal harvests of France, Italy and Great Britain were about 2,000,000 tons greater than last year but complete information in regard to all harvests was not yet available.
Programme to be commenced on the purely provisional basis of importation at the rate of 18,500,000 tons excluding military oats, the military oats programme to be further investigated and in the meantime to proceed on the basis of the old programme, the final programme to be worked out for food as a whole to be reconsidered at the next meeting of the Council. Meantime tonnage to be arranged on the basis of the above total figure and distributed between the Allies in accordance with the ratios recommended by the Food Council.
This decision involves the allocation of British tonnage for the importation of Allied food as a whole instead of, as hitherto, Allied cereals only on an agreed basis of requirements. The British representatives assented to this decision provisionally and on the understanding that the continuance of the system would be conditional upon satisfactory shipping arrangements being made with France and Italy and upon America’s programme being included and working out on equal terms.
2. Civilian Commodities
That until further order the actual consumption of civilian commodities generally during the past year should be taken as setting the maximum limit for importation during the ensuing year. This decision not however preventing a different distribution as between our allies or a greater importation of a particular commodity than last year where stocks have been used up and a larger importation is required to avoid reduction of consumption.
3. Invitation to Japan to Joint Council
That Japan should be invited to join the Council, a memorandum explaining the main objects of the Council, viz., to secure such allocation of Allied tonnage as would best assist the prosecution of the war, accompanying the invitation but no actual conditions being attached to acceptance of membership.
4. Supply of Coal to Italy via France and Shortage of Railway Cars
The Inter-Allied Transportation Council presented a recommendation that 350,000 tons of coal should be sent to Italy by the long sea route, United Kingdom to Italy, the supply from and by way [Page 527] of France being reduced to 250,000 with the object of relieving the congestion on the French railways by the release of some twelve [omission] railway cars.
The programme previously agreed to provided for 150,000 tons by the long sea route and 450,000 from and by way of France; an increase of the 150,000 to 250,000 with the corresponding reduction of 100,000 in the quantities shipped by railroad through France had already been authorized.
The further increase of 100,000 tons by the long sea route would mean the continuous employment of about 150,000 tons of shipping.
That while the present shipment by long sea route of 250,000 tons instead of 150,000 tons of the programme should be continued the further increase is impracticable. Every possible effort should, however, be made to increase the importation of railway cars into France.
[5.] Tonnage for Swiss Needs
The Swiss Government had represented that in view of the extension of control over neutral vessels by the Allied Governments they were no longer able to charter tonnage for their essential requirements.
- That the Allied Governments should accept the responsibility for what the Council agreed to be Switzerland’s minimum requirements.
- That the assumption of this responsibility should be in conjunction with a satisfactory arrangement as to other negotiations the Allies may desire to conclude with Switzerland.
- That the foregoing resolutions should be communicated to the Allied Governments with the recommendation that they shall take immediate steps to carry resolution (b) into effect.
- That the proposal that the German Government should share the responsibility for the provision of tonnage from vessels interned in Spanish or Dutch ports which the Swiss Government believed the German Government were prepared to do should not be encouraged.
Referring to resolution (d) we took the position that in view of the shortage of tonnage it would be advisable to authorize the Swiss Government to charter the German [ships]. Since, however, we were without instructions from our Government on this subject and since Lord Robert Cecil and the other delegates were strongly of the opinion that it would have a bad effect in Spain now to encourage such a transaction between the Swiss Government and the German Government, we did not oppose the adoption of the decision.[Page 528]
6. [Other Questions]
A number of other questions as to no end of requests for tonnage for France and Italy, the use of double bottoms for oil fuel, and the permanent organization of the Council were also discussed and referred to the executive of the Council.
In assenting to the above decisions we accepted the responsibility for recommending them for acceptance by the United States Government and accordingly now submit that they should be so accepted. Stevens, Rublee.